Five outstanding young professors from UCLA are among 126 scientists and scholars in the United States and Canada to receive 2013 Sloan Research Fellowships from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
UCLA is tied for second in the number of new fellows selected this year, along with Harvard University, Stanford University, Yale University, Princeton University and the University of Toronto. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is first, with six.
The fellowships are awarded to exceptional young researchers who "represent the very best that science has to offer" and are "the next generation of leaders in the natural sciences, economics, and mathematics," according to the New York–based foundation.
UCLA's 2013 recipients are:
Alexandrova is an assistant professor in the department of chemistry and biochemistry and a member of UCLA's California NanoSystems Institute. Her laboratory research program focuses on the design and and description of new materials — particularly artificial enzymes — starting with the electronic structure and building up to the molecular and nano-levels. "We like to solve chemical problems," she says, "and we use and develop methods that we need to solve them, and not the other way around." Alexandrova and her research team develop and apply a wide range of techniques in this process, including quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics and algorithms simulating artificial intelligence.
Ernst is an assistant professor in the department of biological chemistry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and in the computer science department at UCLA's Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science. He is also a member of UCLA's Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research Center and UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. Ernst conducts research in computational biology and bioinformatics, developing and applying computational methods to better analyze and model high-throughput experimental data in order to address problems related to epigenomics and gene regulation.
Masmanidis is an assistant professor of neurobiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a member of UCLA's California NanoSystems Institute. His laboratory is interested in understanding how we learn from and are motivated by rewards — at the level of single brain cells. These processes involve a complex choreography of neural activity among multiple brain areas, and in order to decipher this code, Masmanidis' team uses nanotechnology to develop very small, minimally invasive electrodes that track the firing activity of thousands of neurons.
Roy is an assistant professor in the department of physics and astronomy who studies phases of matter, collectively known as topological phases. These display a subtle kind of ordering that can lead to unusual and important consequences. In topological insulators, for example, the edges of the material can be metallic while the bulk is insulating. Roy is pursuing research aimed at understanding the properties and necessary conditions for topological phases and is exploring the physics of materials like strontium ruthenate, a promising candidate for topological superconductors.
Xing is an associate professor in the department of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics and a member of UCLA's Institute for Molecular Medicine. His laboratory studies gene regulation at the RNA level using computational and experimental approaches, and Xing and his colleagues develop novel methods for the analysis of massive genomic data. They integrate computational studies with high-throughput and experimental research to investigate the variation and dynamics of RNA regulatory networks among species, within human populations, and in response to developmental and disease signals.
Sloan Research Fellowships are intended to enhance the careers of exceptional young scientists and scholars in chemistry, computer science, economics, mathematics, evolutionary and computational molecular biology, neuroscience, ocean sciences, and physics. The philanthropic foundation was established in 1934. For more information, visit
UCLA is California's largest university, with an enrollment of more than 40,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The UCLA College of Letters and Science and the university’s 11 professional schools feature renowned faculty and offer 337 degree programs and majors. UCLA is a national and international leader in the breadth and quality of its academic, research, health care, cultural, continuing education and athletic programs. Six alumni and six faculty have been awarded the Nobel Prize.
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