I guess this money will give her the freedom to explore the "unique fundamental topics" she has in mind.
Research-money grants from corporations tend to be accompanied with restrictive and subjective research objectives. Lipson can now explore research she is interested in.
In Lipson's case, we have been reporting on her work since 2003, because it is so unique. The genius term for MacArthur awards may have arisen in the past to explain why obscure fields were being made such unrestricted awards--the theory being that genius sometimes sounds too far-fetched to get traditional funding. Lipson, however, is researching the same field that IBM, Intel and many other silicon chip makers--silicon photonics. However, she told me that she had some unique "fundamental topics" in mind--I'm betting some sort of new optical material. What would you do with an unrestricted $25,000 a quarter?