A few months ago, Ana Maria Rey, a physics professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, received a call from an unknown number. The voice on the other end of the line informed her she had been selected as one of the 2013 MacArthur Fellows. Each year, the MacArthur Foundation awards the fellowship—which is commonly referred to as the genius grant and comes with a $625,000 stipend—to a batch of “exceptionally creative individuals.” The foundation selected Rey for her research on the behavior of atoms.

Fast-forward into the New Year, and Rey has received more good news—this time in the form of an award from the White House. Rey was recently honored as one of 102 recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). She was selected, according to the White House, “for her pioneering research on developing fundamental understanding and control of novel quantum systems and finding applications for a wide range of scientific fields.”

“The impressive achievements of these early-stage scientists and engineers are promising indicators of even greater successes ahead,” President Obama said of the recipients in a statement. “We are grateful for their commitment to generating the scientific and technical advancements that will ensure America’s global leadership for many years to come.”

5280 spoke with Rey back when she was awarded the MacArthur grant. Among other things, we asked her how she felt about being labeled a genius and, well, what a theoretical physicist does, exactly. Read 5280‘s Q&A with Rey here.

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