UW News

February 15, 2023

UW computer scientist and mathematician named Sloan Fellows

two head shots, a woman and a man

UW computer scientist Leilani Battle and UW mathematician Jonathan Zhu were named Sloan Fellows.University of Washington

Two University of Washington faculty members have been awarded early-career fellowships from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The new Sloan Fellows, announced Feb. 15, are Leilani Battle, an assistant professor in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, and Jonathan J. Zhu, an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics.

Open to scholars in eight scientific and technical fields — chemistry, computer science, Earth system science, economics, mathematics, neuroscience 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 2023 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 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 54 institutions across the United States and Canada, spanning fields from evolutionary biology to data science.

Battle is an assistant professor of computer science and co-leads the Interactive Data Lab. Her research investigates the interactive visual exploration of massive datasets and stands at the intersection of several academic disciplines, including healthcare, business and climate science.

“What piqued my interest in data science was the juxtaposition of the incredible power of existing tools and their underutilization by the vast majority of data analysts in the world,” Battle said. “Why are we not making better use of these tools? This sparked a multi-year journey to better understand why people use or don’t use various data science tools and how those tools could be made accessible to and effective for a wider range of users.”

Zhu is an assistant professor in mathematics. His research explores the theory and geometry of surfaces governed by their curvature, and how these surfaces interact with the space around them. Mathematical notions of curvature form the language by which many natural phenomena are described, cell membranes, soap films, and the structure of spacetime via general relativity.

“Mathematics, and especially geometry, is all around us,” Zhu said. “By carefully studying seemingly everyday phenomena — such as soap bubbles — we are able to develop profound mathematical theories, which have applications to phenomena that are otherwise impossibly out of reach, such as black holes. In doing so, we create completely new concepts by which to understand the world we live in.”

For more information, contact Battle at leibatt@cs.washington.edu or Zhu at jonozhu@uw.edu.