"I am a junior faculty member at MIT," Heidi Williams says. "I was just trying to get through my day, and then someone calls and says 'you know here is a vote of confidence that we think you're going to continue to do work that is socially useful.' And it's just incredibly humbling."

Williams is an assistant professor at MIT's economics department and a certified genius-- MacArthur genius that is. Her research questions evaluate at the different effects of patent policies and technology on medical research and health care.

"Theres a lot of work by health economists on certain aspects of the market, like insurance," Williams says, but her research asks different kinds of questions: "My work tends to be focused on whether we're getting the right kinds of medical technologies developed, and to think about ways to try to improve public policy that might make it more likely that we obtain the technologies that are most going to benefit patients." Her work tried to understand where there are the most private incentives for investment, and where there is the highest social value that could be developed, but may not be.

"There's no place that you can go to get data on technologies that could have exited but don't." Williams works to measure that missing innovation, and the cost of poorly designed policies.

She looks forward to using her grant to leverage more conversations with stakeholders all over the healthcare industry from doctors to patients, researchers to pharmacists, and of course, big tech. 

Will Williams use any of her fellowship for fun? "The research itself is fun," she insists.

>> To hear more from 2015 MacArthur Fellow, click on the link above.