April 20, 2001

Faculty Win Sloan Fellowships

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Two Cornell faculty members were among the 104 scientists and economists chosen to receive this year’s Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellowships.

Each year for the past 46 years, the Sloan Foundation has presented young researchers in early stages of their careers with a financial grant as a part of the Sloan Research Fellows Program. This year, the program awarded a total of $4.16 million for research fellowships.

Prof. Yuri Berest, mathematics and Prof. Christiane Linster, neurobiology and behavior received the Sloan Fellowship this year, along with $40,000 each to pursue more extensive research in their respective fields of study.

Berest has been a faculty member at Cornell since August ’99. With the money from the Sloan Research Fellowship, he plans to continue his current research in the field of medical physics, studying wave propagation.

He intends to take at least one semester off from teaching and spend a month studying at Cambridge in order to focus his attention on research.

“What is special about the Sloan Award is that it is given to a person on the basis of what they have already done, but they can use the money to do whatever research they want,” Berest said.

Linster also hopes to spend the next year conducting research using the Sloan Foundation grant. She will continue her work on learning and memory and will investigate the olfactory system in rats.

“[The Sloan Fellowship] has given me many opportunities. It will allow me to buy equipment, hire technicians and help further my research,” Linster said.

Linster came to Cornell in June ’00 and plans to spend next year in Ithaca, teaching computational neuroscience while also conducting her research.

Prof. Jon Clardy, chemistry and associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences, received a Sloan Fellowship in 1972 and served on the selection committee for this year’s award in chemistry.

According to Clardy, candidates for the Sloan Fellowships are new professors, in their first five years of teaching. Nominations are made each year by department chairs and the committees for each category meet twice a year in New York City to narrow down the list of hundreds of nominees. The final fellowship selections are made each February.

“[The Sloan Award] allows [its recipients] to pursue speculative leads that most agencies wouldn’t have given a chance,” said Prof. Geoffrey Coates, chemistry. Coates received a Sloan Fellowship in ’99. The Sloan Foundation granted him $35,000, which he used to fund research in the area of biodegradable polymers.

“It is high risk [for the foundation], but also high reward because of the free reign given to focus on whatever you want,” Coates added.

Coates said that he was also thankful that the financial grant enabled him to hire undergraduate research assistants, and give them an opportunity to engage in serious scientific research.

Including this year’s awards, the Sloan Foundation has spent nearly $92 million for support of over 3,600 young researchers. Twenty six previous winners of Sloan Fellowships have gone on to win the Nobel Prize.

This year’s winners are engaged in categories of research such as physics, chemistry, computer science, mathematics, neuroscience and economics. They are employed at 51 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada.

Archived article by Lauren Haber