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April 18, 2002

Five profs win Sloan Fellowships

Five UW professors are among 104 outstanding young scientists and economists from 53 colleges and universities to be selected for Sloan Research Fellowships. Fellows receive grants of $40,000 for a two-year period and are free to pursue whatever lines of inquiry are of interest to them.

Julianne Dalcanton, assistant professor of astronomy, will use her fellowship to continue her work on galaxies, which she says “provide a valuable laboratory for exploring fundamental physics.” The bulk of her work is focused on making direct tests of the physics that control the process of galaxy formation, and in turn, using the properties of galaxies to constrain fundamental physics and the nature of dark matter. Dalcanton, who has been at the UW since 1998, got her doctorate at Princeton.

Bharathi Jagadeesh joined the School of Medicine’s Department of Physiology and Biophysics in 1999 as an assistant professor and is also a core staff member in the Regional Primate Research Center. She earned a doctorate in neuroscience from Northwestern University in 1993 and then did postdoctoral work at the National Institutes of Health before joining the UW faculty. Her research focuses on the neural basis for visual learning, including how learning and memory alter circuits that generate basic visual code. She studies the brain’s representation of complex visual images, and she is able to record the neural activity of cells that respond selectively to images.

Sandor Kovacs, who started at the UW in the fall of 2000, says he plans a three-part Sloan project in the field of geometry. The first part is to study deformations of curves, surfaces and their higher dimensional analogues and the spaces that parameterize those deformations. The second is to investigate a property called rigidity, which concerns families of geometric objects and their deformations as a family. It is currently only known for one-dimensional families of one-dimensional objects, but he aims to obtain a result that holds in arbitrary dimensions. The third part concerns singularities of spaces — points near which the local geometry is very different from the local geometry near a generic point. An assistant professor of mathematics, Kovacs obtained his doctorate at the University of Utah.

Steven Seitz explains his project by asking, “Suppose that you had thousands of eyes instead of two. What could you infer about the structure and properties of the world around you?” If you imagine a room-sized virtual eye, with thousands of cameras distributed about the space, Seitz says, this virtual eye could simulate almost any imaging system by forming new images composed of pixels from different cameras. Seitz is investigating the design, theory, and applications of such massive image systems. “Using digital imagery, I seek to compute the precise 3D shape of objects in the world and how they move and behave over time,” he says. Seitz, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, has been an assistant professor of Computer Science and Engineering since the fall of 2000.

A newcomer to the UW’s mathematics department, Yu Yuan is on leave this year at the University of Chicago. Yuan studies partial differential equations and differential geometry, which he describes as “further applications of Newton’s calculus to the investigation of laws and shapes of nature.” In the Sloan project, he will study special Lagrangian equations, Monge-Ampere equations from differential geometry, and Isaacs equations from optimal stochastic control theory. Yuan earned his doctorate at the University of Minnesota.

The Sloan Fellowships were created by Alfred P. Sloan in 1955 to provide, according to the Sloan Foundation, “crucial and flexible funds to outstanding researchers early in their academic careers.”