February 19, 2013

Three faculty members named Sloan Research Fellows

News and Information

Three members of the UW faculty are among 126 recipients of Sloan Research Fellowships, announced today (Feb. 19) by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.  The UW received two of just 12 fellowships awarded nationally in molecular biology.

This year’s awardees represent 61 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. According to the foundation, the fellowships “are given to early-career scientists and scholars whose achievements and potential identify them as rising stars, the next generation of scientific leaders.”

The new UW fellows are:

Kiki JenkinsLekelia (Kiki) Jenkins, assistant professor of marine and environmental affairs, received a B.S. in biology from the University of Maryland Baltimore County in 1997. As a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow, she received her Ph.D. from Duke University in 2006 by pioneering a new field of study into the invention and adoption of marine conservation technology. Her research interests include: the theoretical and empirical study of the invention and adoption of marine technologies, especially bycatch reduction devices and tidal energy arrays; the study of the integration of “lay” expertise into scientific decision-making; and the study of gear substitution as a means to reduce bycatch and habitat impacts of fishing gear. Recent research includes studying the factors that cause fishermen to adopt, or not to adopt, equipment that can help sea turtles avoid being caught by fishing gear or cause them the least harm if they are caught.

James CarothersJames Carothers is an assistant professor in the department of chemical engineering.  Carothers earned his doctorate at Harvard University in 2005, and recently joined the UW from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was a Jane Coffin Childs postdoctoral fellow and research scientist with Jay D. Keasling and the DOE Joint BioEnergy Institute. He is a member of the UW’s new Molecular Engineering & Science Institute and an affiliated investigator of the NSF Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center.  Carothers’ honors include a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, the Harvard University Graduate Prize Fellowship, and the American Honda Scholarship for First Place at the National Science Olympiad.  His research focuses on developing design platforms for engineering functionally-complex RNA-based control systems. These systems process cellular information and program the expression of very large numbers of genes, enabling both increased understanding of fundamental biological processes and applications to meet the demands for renewable chemicals and new therapies.

Daniela WittenDaniela Witten, assistant professor of biostatistics at the UW School of Public Health, was named to Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list for 2012 in the field of science and healthcare. She was named to the 2011 list for science and innovation.

Witten earned a Ph.D. in statistics from Stanford University in 2010 before joining the UW School of Public Health. She is also an adjunct assistant professor in the UW Department of Statistics. In 2011, she received a prestigious five-year Early Independence Award from the National Institutes of Health.

The 28-year-old biostatistician was recognized for her work developing statistical tools that can analyze large sets of data such as the human genome, work that could lead to better treatment and prevention of disease.

Witten says she plans to use the fellowship to support research in statistical machine learning, and specifically in the area of high-dimensional graphical modeling. She also is completing an “entry-level” textbook with colleagues from Stanford University and the University of Southern California that seeks to make machine learning techniques more accessible to those who don’t have a Ph.D. in the field.

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.