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February 19, 2010 — Five U of T scientists awarded prestigious Sloan Fellowships

by Christine Elias — Friday, Feb 19, 2010

February 19, 2010
By Kim Luke

U of T computational biologist Michael Brudno, chemist Dvira Segal and mathematicians Spyros Alexakis, Larry Guth and Balázs Szegedy are among the 118 young scholars awarded 2010 Sloan Research Fellowships from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

The two-year fellowships recognize exceptional performance and unique potential in early-career scientists in the fields of chemistry, computer science, economics, mathematics, molecular biology and physics. Each fellowship provides $50,000 US to enable the scientists to pursue chosen lines of inquiry.

Brudno, holder of the Canada Research Chair in Computational Biology, is an assistant professor in computer science. Brudno and his team are developing computational methods that will reliably detect genomic differences among humans using next-generation sequencing, a technology that is dramatically changing the way biologists acquire and analyse genomic data. Such advanced tools promise to revolutionize diagnostics and improve medical treatment.

Segal, an assistant professor of chemistry, is developing theoretical approaches and simulation tools for studying transport and dissipation at the nano-scale. Specific applications of her work include exploring charge transfer mechanisms and energy transmission processes in molecular structures.

An assistant professor of mathematics, Alexakis conducts research at the intersection of differential geometry and partial differential equations. Alexakis is now studying questions related to the "final states" of black hole solutions, which were originally raised and studied by Stephen Hawking.

Guth, an assistant professor of mathematics, specializes in metric geometry. He studies different ways to describe the size of geometric objects to answer questions such as whether one object fits inside another.

Szegedy, also an assistant professor in the mathematics department, studies combinatorics, a branch of mathematics concerned with countable discrete structures, and group theory.

"The Sloan fellowships are a wonderful acknowledgement and encouragement of our young scientists," said Professor Meric Gertler, dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science. "U of T's particularly strong showing in this year's round reflects the excellent quality of our new faculty members. We are truly privileged to have so many rising stars."

With three Sloan recipients, the Department of Mathematics has set a new U of T record for the number of fellowships going to a single department. Of 19 Sloans awarded to mathematicians this year, three went to U of T, two went to SUNY, Stony Brook and 14 other universities got one each.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is a philanthropic, not-for-profit institution based in New York City. Established in 1934 by Alfred Pritchard Sloan Jr., then-president and chief executive officer of the General Motors Corporation, the Foundation makes grants in support of original research and education in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and economic performance. For a complete list of recipients visit the Sloan Foundation website.