Three members of the UW’s College of Engineering, two scientists from the Department of Chemistry and one from the Department of Genome Sciences are among 118 recipients of Sloan Research Fellowships, given by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The awardees represent 54 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. According to the foundation, the fellowships “seek to stimulate fundamental research by early-career scientists and scholars of outstanding promise.”
The awards are given in recognition of fellows’ distinguished performance and the potential to make substantial contributions to their field. The new UW fellows are:
Elhanan Borenstein, assistant professor of genome sciences, conducts large-scale computational analyses of complex biological networks and how they evolved. He studies the interplays between a species, other living organisms, and the environments in which they live, particularly as these interactions relate to their metabolism – the biochemical activities that maintain life. This framework enables scientists to infer the ancient conditions in which some species originated and how they adapt to change. Borenstein joined the UW faculty in 2010. He earned a doctorate with distinction in computer science from Tel-Aviv University in Israel.
Xiaosong Li, assistant professor of chemistry, earned a doctorate in theoretical chemistry at Wayne State University in Michigan in 2003. He did postdoctoral research at Yale University before joining the UW faculty in 2005. His research focuses on developing and applying electronic structure theories and novel molecular dynamics to study properties and reactions that occur in large systems such as polymers, biomolecules and nanoparticles.
Dustin Maly, an assistant professor of chemistry, received a doctorate in biological chemistry in 2002 from the University of California, Berkeley. Following postdoctoral work at the University of California, San Francisco, from 2002 to 2006, he joined the UW faculty in 2006. His research involves developing new chemical tools to allow greater understanding of how cells are able to gather and organize a large amount of environmental information and convert those signals into complex behaviors such as growth, differentiation and spontaneous movement.
Anup Rao, assistant professor of computer science & engineering, joined the UW last fall. He earned his doctorate at the University of Texas at Austin in 2007 and held postdoctoral fellowships at the Institute for Advanced Study and Princeton University before joining the UW faculty. Rao’s research is in theoretical computer science, which he defines as “the mathematical study of the costs associated with manipulating information.” While this is pure research, applications might include cryptography, error detection or speeding up Internet traffic.
Georg Seelig, assistant professor of computer science & engineering and Electrical Engineering and adjunct assistant professor in Bioengineering, earned his doctorate at the University of Geneva and did postdoctoral research at the California Institute of Technology before joining the UW faculty in 2008. Seelig’s research focuses on the intersection between biology, electrical engineering and computer science – looking at how cells process information, as well as using DNA and RNA molecules to program cellular behavior.
Paul Wiggins, assistant professor of bioengineering and physics, joined the UW last fall. He earned his doctorate in physics at the California Institute of Technology and held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research before joining the UW faculty. Wiggins studies the physics of biological systems at the microscopic scale. For example, he looks at the forces involved when chromosomes separate to divide the DNA, or how the physical forces on a single-celled bacteria’s nucleus affect its behavior.
The Sloan Research Fellowships have been awarded since 1955, initially in only three areas: physics, chemistry and mathematics. Since then, 38 Sloan Research Fellows have gone on to win the Nobel Prize in their fields, and 16 have received the Fields Medal, the top honor in mathematics. The program now also recognizes researchers in economics; next year it will expand to include ocean sciences.
The fellowships include a grant of $50,000 over a two-year period. Once chosen, Sloan Research Fellows are free to pursue whatever lines of inquiry are of most interest to them, and they are permitted to employ Fellowship funds in a wide variety of ways to further their research aims.
“The scientists and researchers selected for this year’s Sloan Research Fellowships represent the very brightest rising stars of this generation of scholars,” said Paul Joskow, president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “The Foundation is proud to be able to support their work at this important stage in their careers.”