UW News

February 12, 2020

Four UW scientists awarded Sloan Fellowships for early-career research

UW News

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Four faculty members at the University of Washington have been awarded early-career fellowships from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The new Sloan Fellows, announced Feb. 12, are Kyle Armour and Jacqueline Padilla-Gamiño, both assistant professors in the School of Oceanography and the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences in the College of the Environment, respectively; and Hanna Hajishirzi and Yin Tat Lee, both assistant professors in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering in the College of Engineering.

Open to scholars in eight scientific and technical fields — chemistry, computer science, economics, mathematics, molecular biology, neuroscience, ocean sciences and physics — the fellowships honor those early-career researchers whose achievements mark them among the next generation of scientific leaders.

The 126 Sloan Fellows for 2020 were selected in coordination with the research community. Candidates are nominated by their peers, and fellows are selected by independent panels of senior scholars based on each candidate’s research accomplishments, creativity and potential to become a leader in their field. Each fellow will receive $75,000 to apply toward research endeavors.

This year’s fellows come from 60 institutions across the United States and Canada, spanning fields from evolutionary biology to data science.

Armour is an assistant professor in the School of Oceanography and Department of Atmospheric Sciences. He is studying the role of the ocean in climate change using a combination of oceanographic and atmospheric observations, numerical climate model simulations and theory. Among his research topics is the role of oceanic and atmospheric circulations in moving heat around the climate system and how ocean currents interact with atmospheric processes to set the rate and magnitude of global warming. Armour is a lead author on the upcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Sixth Assessment Report.

“My group works on a variety of topics in oceanography and atmospheric sciences, but as a collection they focus on how the large-scale dynamics of the Earth system influence the spatial pattern of climate variability and change, and how that spatial pattern in turn influences global warming through the activation of various feedback processes,” Armour said. “A major focus is to provide an improved understanding of global and regional climate predictably on timescales of decades to centuries.”

Padilla-Gamiño is an assistant professor in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. She is an environmental physiologist with a background in photobiology, reproduction, molecular ecology and oceanography. She studies the ecophysiology and reproductive biology of algae and marine invertebrates in a changing environment. By combining field and laboratory techniques, she examines the importance of transgenerational effects in acclimatization and local adaptation, and she investigates the synergistic effects of multiple stressors on coastal ecosystems. Padilla-Gamiño is interested in science communication and community engagement and is the author of the bilingual children’s book “Kupe and the Corals,” which has been translated in five languages.

“My research has uncovered fundamental insights on global change biology, parental effects, symbiosis, coral reproduction and the effects of ocean acidification and microplastics in seafood,” she said.

Hajishirzi is an assistant professor in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering and an AI research fellow at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2). She addresses foundational problems in natural language processing, artificial intelligence and machine learning. Her goal is to develop general-purpose algorithms that can represent, comprehend and reason about diverse forms of data efficiently and on a large scale. Hajishirzi’s research spans multiple domains, including representation learning, question answering, knowledge graphs, and applications such as conversational dialogue and knowledge extraction from unstructured text.

“Enormous amounts of information are available online in multiple forms across diverse resources; for example, in news articles, web pages, textbooks and technical documents,” she said. “An important challenge in AI is how to represent and integrate diverse resources to facilitate further comprehension and reasoning. It is the right time to address this challenge at large scale and in real-world settings, using a unified representation that combines the best features of deep neural models and symbolic formalisms.”

Lee is an assistant professor in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering and a visiting researcher at Microsoft Research AI. He combines ideas from continuous and discrete mathematics to produce state-of-the-art algorithms for solving optimization problems that underpin the theory and practice of computing. His work encompasses multiple domains, including convex optimization, convex geometry, spectral graph theory and online algorithms.

“From machine learning and experiment design, to route planning and medical imaging, convex optimization is used everywhere,” Lee said. “My group develops new techniques and algorithms to optimize faster, with the goal to design a universal optimization algorithm without compromising performance.”

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For more information, contact Jackson Holtz at jjholtz@uw.edu.