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Six Northwestern professors named Sloan Research Fellows

Young researchers ‘represent the scientific leaders of tomorrow’
The six are among 118 outstanding early-career researchers in this year’s class.

Six Northwestern faculty members representing three schools have been awarded a prestigious 2022 Sloan Research Fellowship from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. They were selected for their creativity, innovation and research accomplishments which make them stand out as the next generation of leaders.

The new Northwestern fellows are economist Piotr Dworczak, astrophysicist Wen-fai Fong and mathematician Yuchen Liu of the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences; computer engineer Josiah Hester and chemical and biological engineer Muzhou Wang of the McCormick School of Engineering; and neuroscientist Lucas Pinto of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

The six are included among 118 outstanding early-career researchers who make up this year’s class. The annual fellowships are awarded to scholars in seven scientific and technical fields: chemistry, computer science, Earth system science, economics, mathematics, neuroscience and physics. This year’s fellows were drawn from a diverse range of 51 institutions across the U.S. and Canada. 

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As formidable young scholars, they are already shaping the research agenda within their respective fields — and their trailblazing won’t end here.”

Adam F. Falk
President of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

The two-year $75,000 fellowship is one of the most competitive and prestigious awards available to young researchers, and past fellows have gone on to become some of the most decorated experts in their field. The financial support can be used flexibly to advance the fellow’s research.

“Today’s Sloan Research Fellows represent the scientific leaders of tomorrow,” said Adam F. Falk, president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “As formidable young scholars, they are already shaping the research agenda within their respective fields — and their trailblazing won’t end here.”

Piotr Dworczak was selected as a Sloan Research Fellow in economics. He is an assistant professor of economics in Weinberg College. Dworczak’s research focuses on mechanism and information design, attempting to combine research in pure theory with more applied interests in inequality-aware market design and financial over-the-counter markets. 

Selected as a Sloan Research Fellow in physics, Wen-fai Fong is an assistant professor of physics and astronomy in Weinberg and a member of Northwestern’s Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics(CIERA). Fong’s research group investigates the enigmatic origins of the universe’s fastest explosions, known as transients, and their host galaxy environments. To do this, her team uses observations across the electromagnetic spectrum to study fast radio bursts, gamma-ray bursts, sources of gravitational waves and anything that collides or explodes in outer space.

Josiah Hester was selected as a Sloan Research Fellow in computer science. He is the Breed Junior Professor of Design, an assistant professor of computer science and an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at McCormick. With an overarching goal of making computing and electronics more sustainable, Hester and his team design battery-free smart devices and intermittent computing systems that are resilient to frequent and unpredictable power failures. By omitting batteries from everyday devices, Hester hopes to keep trillions of dead batteries — which are flammable and toxic — per year out of landfills.

Yuchen Liu was selected as a Sloan Research Fellow in mathematics. He is an assistant professor of mathematics in Weinberg. Liu’s research primarily focuses on algebraic geometry and its interactions with differential geometry and commutative algebra. His goal is to investigate canonical metrics and moduli spaces of higher dimensional varieties from the viewpoint of algebraic stability. 

Selected as a Sloan Research Fellow in neuroscience, Lucas Pinto is an assistant professor of neuroscience at Feinberg. He is a systems neuroscientist interested in the neurobiological mechanisms underlying cognition, both at the local circuit level and in terms of large-scale interactions between different brain areas. In particular, his lab seeks to understand how areas of the brain interact flexibly to support the various computations that underlie different types of decision making.

Muzhou (Mitchell) Wang was selected as a Sloan Research Fellow in chemistry. Wang is an assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering at McCormick. Wang’s lab explores novel approaches to polymer fabrication and characterization, with particular interests in optical microscopy and high-throughput techniques. These methods answer fundamental questions in polymers which will lead to applications in biomaterials and sustainability.