6 UC Berkeley researchers honored for contributions to science

Berkeley News/Courtesy

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Six UC Berkeley researchers were named 2018 Sloan Research Fellows on Thursday in recognition of their contributions to the field of science.

The Sloan Fellowship, which was founded in 1955, honors 126 promising researchers across the country per year. Candidates are nominated by a senior scientist in one of eight fields, including chemistry and mathematics. The nominations are then reviewed by an independent selection committee of distinguished scientists from each field.

The fellowship is primarily intended to provide funding for early-career scholars who demonstrate potential in their research, Sloan Foundation grants coordinator Lauren von Eckartsberg said.

“Fellows are selected on the basis of their independent research accomplishments, creativity, and potential to become leaders in the scientific community through their contributions to their field,” according to the Sloan Foundation website.

The 2018 UC Berkeley fellows include Supreet Kaur and Danny Yagan for economics, Anca Dragan and Raluca Ada Popa for computer science, Norman Yao for physics and Markita Landry for neuroscience.

Kaur is a campus assistant professor of economics. She studies the functioning of labor markets in impoverished countries and the impact of inequality on labor productivity. According to Kaur, her aim is to provide new evidence on the effect that psychological forces have on people’s economic behavior.

Yagan is also a campus assistant professor of economics. Similar to Kaur, Yagan studies economic inequality and is currently researching labor and public economics. Kaur and Yagan were the only two Sloan economics fellows from the same university.

“There are only eight (fellows) across the country in economics each year,” campus economics professor Jim Powell said. “And we got two of them. Even MIT only had one.”

Landry, a former National Science Foundation, or NSF, fellow, teaches chemical and biomolecular engineering at UC Berkeley. She develops images to study the chemistry of the brain with the goal of understanding how antidepressants work.

Yao is a campus assistant professor of physics. He is currently working on multiple projects, including a study on finding a new form of matter in time crystals.

Snir Gazit, a campus postdoctoral fellow, said Yao’s award is “well-deserved.”

“He’s amazing,” Gazit said. “It is a privilege to work with him. He’s a great scientist and a very nice guy.”

Dragan, a campus assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science, runs the InterACT Laboratory, which focuses on enabling human-robot interaction. Dragan was listed in the Romanian Forbes’ “30 under 30″ and was among MIT’s “35 innovators under 35.”

Popa, who received her master’s degree from MIT, has been an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science at UC Berkeley for two years. She is currently working on a project that will allow scientists to use encrypted data from hospitals for cancer research.

Popa co-founded the RISELab, which aims to “develop technologies that enable applications to interact intelligently and securely with their environment in real time,” according to the RISELab website.

I felt honored because I know many (other) professors who have received the award,” Popa said.

Contact Isabella Sabri at [email protected].