Six Assistant Profs Win CAREER Awards from National Science Foundation


AUSTIN, Texas – Six assistant professors in the College of Natural Sciences have received Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) awards from the National Science Foundation.

The CAREER awards recognize promising young faculty and supports their research with five years of funding.

Andrew Blumberg, an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics, will use his $80,927 in funding to advance our current understanding of the bridge between algebra and high-dimensional geometry. The proposed research will have impact on mathematical physics, particularly the study of topological field theories and string theory. The educational program will enhance the development of mathematically trained undergraduates and will leverage the university’s existing strengths in recruiting talented undergraduates from traditionally under-represented groups.

Dionicio Siegel, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, will examine new ways to promote neural regeneration through the use of small molecules that are either derived from, or mimic the structure of, natural products. With his $200,000 in funding he will also help fund his research class “Bioprospecting: Isolation of Biologically Active Natural Products from Endophytes,” which exposes students to a unique combination of botany, ethnobotany, mycology, pharmacology, and organic chemistry.

Shalene Jha, an assistant professor in the Section of Integrative Biology, will use her $690,415 in funding to develop the first spatially and temporally explicit population model for native pollinators, specifically bees, in a human-altered landscape. The program will also be carried out through a synergistic integration of research and teaching activities, including enhanced undergraduate involvement in the lab and field, collaboration with K-12 teachers, development of a graduate-level course in landscape genetics, and a series of public outreach seminars and workshops.

Pradeep Ravikumar, an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science, will use his $91,333 in funding to develop “neat” mathematically rigorous approaches to highly complex artificial intelligence and machine learning problems that have more typically been addressed through “scruffy” methods. The research should impacts problems across science and engineering wherever statistical machine learning approaches are being used, such as genomics, natural language processing and image analysis, to name a few.

Thomas Chen, an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics, will use his $416,231 in funding to address issues in the areas of quantum field theory, non-relativistic quantum electrodynamics, and Hamiltonian dynamics. The educational component of his project will involve the training of graduate students in highly multidisciplinary annual thematic programs that provide them with a integrative and specialized understanding of links between analysis, applied and computational mathematics, nonlinear PDE’s, and mathematical physics.

Andrew Neitzke, an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics, will use his $50,244 in funding to continue his cutting edge exploration of the mathematical applications of N=2 supersymmetric quantum field theory. This work has recently led to quite unexpected connections between physics and mathematical subjects such as enumerative geometry, hyperkahler geometry, and cluster algebras, and hence also to purely mathematical connections between these subjects. He will also produce a library of video clips explaining concepts from physics for mathematicians at a variety of levels, from the undergraduate level to other researchers. These clips will be freely available over the web.

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