April 8, 2004

C.U. Profs Receive Sloan Fellowship

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The Sloan Foundation has awarded fellowships of $40,000 to two Cornell professors for research. Prof. Fernando Escobedo, chemical engineering, and Prof. Rasmus Nielsen, biometrics, both received the Sloan Foundation Research Fellowships to put towards their respective studies.

The fellowships this year were given to 116 young scientists and economists — faculty from 51 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. Fellowships totaled to $4.64 million this year.

“They select a faculty who is more or less in the first five years at a university. Most awards are given in chemistry, physics and computer science,” Escobedo said.

In order for a faculty member to be considered, the chair of his or her department must nominate him or her. Also included are letters of recommendation and various other publications. Paulette Clancy, director of chemical and biological engineering said, “I don’t believe anyone in my department has ever received this award. It tends to be won by chemists and computer scientists. In a sense, Fernando bridges those two fields.”

Escobedo’s research includes designing and using computer models to study polymer systems.

“In some sense, our calculations are virtual experiments. We model molecules and materials that exist, and we can test ones that don’t exist yet,” Escobedo said.

“If a company is looking for a molecule to react with another drug … If they would like it to be more reactive, it’s expensive to test it, so we pre-screen the reaction,” he continued. Escobedo’s research goal is provide a model for the development of novel soft materials and processes.

“This has been a watershed year for Fernando’s research. He has made significant progress in creating algorithmic framework for molecular scale computer simulation of complex fluids,” said Clancy said. Clancy is Escobedo’s mentor.

Escobedo received his B.S. in chemical engineering in 1986 from the Universidad de San Agustin, Peru. In 1993, he received his M.S. in chemical engineering from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In 1997 he received his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A Cornell faculty member since 1999, he won the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation New Faculty Award. Two years later, he won a Faculty Early Career Development grant from the National Science Foundation.

Nielsen joined the Cornell faculty in 2000. He works primarily with genetics and genomics and specializes in molecular evolution and population genetics. Nielsen has completed many projects using theoretical data and analyzing it. His recent work has analyzed the complete set of genes for humans and chimpanzees to clear up the molecular level of the evolutionary process of humans.

Nielsen received his Cand. Scient. in biology from the University of Copenhagen in 1994. In 1998, he went on to the University of California-Berkeley to receive his Ph.D. in population genetics. He now works as an assistant professor in biological statistics and computational biology.

Archived article by Jessica Liebman
Sun Staff Writer