Elaine Hsiao, UCLA assistant professor of integrative biology and physiology, and Hosea Nelson, UCLA assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, are among 18 outstanding young scientists in the U.S. to be awarded Packard Fellowships for Science and Engineering by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

UCLA is the only university to have more than one 2017 recipient.

Packard fellowships, which were announced today, enable the nation’s most promising professors to pursue science and engineering research early in their careers with few funding restrictions, providing them with the freedom to take risks and explore new scientific frontiers.

Hsiao, also a recipient of an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation fellowship, studies the trillions of microbes the body contains that impact health and disease, and seeks to understand how they influence the brain and behavior. Among the questions Hsiao investigates are how these microbes communicate with the nervous system, their effects on the nervous system and how interactions between microbes and the nervous system impact health and disease. Watch her TED talk on how the microbiome affects brain and behavior.

Nelson’s lab is focused on the discovery of new chemical reactions that will enable the efficient and environmentally benign syntheses of fuels, materials and medicines. He and his research team take an interdisciplinary approach, exploring chemical concepts that lie at the interface of organic synthesis, inorganic chemistry and molecular biology. Their research was recently published in the journal Science, where they reported a new chemical reaction to convert methane (a common greenhouse gas) into useful chemicals that could be used to prepare new fuels or therapeutics. Nelson was also an inaugural member of Chemical and Engineering News magazine ’s Talented 12 in recognition for his achievements as a graduate student, postdoctoral scholar and assistant professor.

The Packard Foundation invited 50 universities to each nominate two young faculty members in science and engineering. An advisory panel of distinguished scientists and engineers carefully reviewed the nominations and selected the 18 fellows.

UCLA professors who previously have been awarded Packard fellowships include Andrea Ghez Alice Shapley and Steven Furlanetto, professors of astronomy and physics; Douglas Black, professor of molecular genetics; Dino Di Carlo, professor of bioengineering and mechanical engineering at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science; Richard Kaner, a distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and of materials science and engineering; Yi Tang, UCLA professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and of chemistry and biochemistry; and mathematics professor Terence Tao, who holds the James and Carol Collins Chair in the UCLA College.