7 UC Berkeley assistant professors nominated as 2019 Sloan Research Fellows

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Seven UC Berkeley assistant professors from STEM-related fields were nominated as Sloan Research Fellows on Feb. 19, recognized as some of the leaders in science today.

This year’s recipients — Courtney Dressing, Shirshendu Ganguly, Moritz Hardt, Sergey Levine, Priya Moorjani, Philipp Strack and Gabriel Zucman — are among 126 scholars from 57 universities in the United States and Canada. The recipients will receive $70,000 over the course of two years toward a research project.

“Sloan Fellows stand out for their creativity, for their hard work, for the importance of the issues they tackle, and the energy and innovation with which they tackle them. To be a Sloan Fellow is to be in the vanguard of twenty-first century science,” said Alfred P. Sloan Foundation President Adam Falk in a press statement released by the foundation.

According to the Sloan Foundation website, the Sloan Research Fellowships seek to stimulate research by early-career scientists and scholars of outstanding promise. The fellowship is awarded yearly to researchers in acknowledgment of their distinguished performances and unique potentials to make significant impacts in their fields.

To qualify for the fellowship, candidates must hold a tenure track position at a college, university or other institution and hold a doctoral degree in a field related to neuroscience, computer science, chemistry, economics, mathematics, physics, ocean science, or computational or evolutionary molecular biology, according to the website.

Moorjani tracks evolutionary history and its impact on human adaptation and disease to detect key genetic variants. Dressing is leading a NASA research team to launch a telescope that will provide astronomers with a deeper view of the universe. 

“The meteoritic rise of this brilliant young scientist is well deserved. She is at the leading edge in the future of the field of exoplanet detection and characterization,” said Debra Fischer, a professor of astronomy at Yale University and colleague of Dressing, in an email.

Hardt aims to make the practice of machine learning more robust, reliable and aligned with social values. Levine develops machine learning algorithms and techniques, studying how robots can learn behaviors autonomously from their own experience.

Ganguly studies the applications of probability theory with a focus on the geometry of geodesics in percolation models and problems in statistical mechanics. Strack draws from game theory, optimization and probability theory to develop innovations within business.

Zucman specializes in the study of inequality, wealth and taxation and has developed new methods to measure wealth held in tax havens.  

Many of the fellows are “honored” and “feel fortunate” to receive such a nomination. Dressing, Hardt, Levine and Moorjani plan to distribute the funds to support their student graduate research groups, to cover research-related travel expenses and explore new ideas to advance their research.  

“I think all fellows embody exactly the scholarship that the Sloan Foundation seeks to recognize,” said professor of astronomy at Harvard University David Charbonneau.

Stanley von Ehrenstein-Smith covers research and ideas. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @von_ehrenstein.