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Two Weinberg faculty members receive prestigious NSF CAREER award

Grant recognizes young faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholar

Chemist Todd Gingrich and mathematician Yuchen Liu have received the prestigious Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the foundation’s most prestigious honor for junior faculty members.

Gingrich is an assistant professor of chemistry in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. He will receive $650,000 over five years from NSF’s Chemical Theory, Models, and Computational Methods Program in the Division of Chemistry.

Liu is an assistant professor of mathematics in Weinberg College. He will receive $463,811 over five years from NSF’s Division of Mathematical Sciences.

Todd Gingrich

Gingrich is a theoretical chemist specializing in the dynamics of nonequilibrium systems such as those found in living matter. Design problems are ubiquitous in chemistry. Many computer algorithms exist for predicting and rationalizing how to design molecules to favor certain structures in equilibrium, but to mimic the chemical capabilities of living systems, chemists must extend their designs of molecules to consider what happens when they consume chemical fuels and expel waste. Gingrich and his group develop and apply algorithms to simulate chemical kinetics in those nonequilibrium regimes.

todd gingrich
Todd Gingrich

His CAREER project is titled “Reaction-Diffusion Kinetics with Tensor Networks.”

To design electronic circuitry, it's useful to be able to compute and simulate how electrons will flow through miniature wires at different points in time. A different type of circuitry runs inside the cells that power our lives: Instead of electrons flowing through wires, these biophysical circuits are controlled by the way different molecules interact with each other, react and diffuse apart. Simulating such motion presents many technical and scientific challenges, particularly because individual molecules tend to move with a degree of randomness.

The CAREER award will support Gingrich and his group in their design of a novel mathematical and computational approach simulating the way networks of molecules react and diffuse. In addition to the scientific research efforts, the project includes an initiative to develop and share online educational simulations to teach undergraduate and graduate students about reaction-diffusion chemistry.

Yuchen Liu

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. 

yuchen liu
Yuchen Liu

Liu’s CAREER project is titled “K-stability and moduli spaces of higher dimensional varieties.”

With the NSF support, he will study moduli spaces of higher dimensional varieties using algebraic stability theory from the study of Einstein metrics. Moduli theory is a central topic in algebraic geometry. Einstein metrics are fundamental structures in differential geometry and mathematical physics. 

Liu aims to use their strong connection, known as the theory of K-stability, to construct new moduli spaces and study their relations to previously known moduli spaces. The education component of the project includes research and learning opportunities for students and early-career researchers in algebraic geometry, through seminars, workshops, summer schools and other activities.