Eight young UCLA professors are among 118 scientists and scholars selected today to receive 2022 Sloan Research Fellowships, making UCLA No. 1 among U.S. and Canadian colleges and universities in the number of new fellows.
The fellowships, among the most competitive and prestigious awards available to early-career researchers, are often seen as evidence of the quality of an institution’s science, math and economics faculty. MIT, with seven new faculty fellows, had the second most.
“Today’s Sloan Research Fellows represent the scientific leaders of tomorrow,” said Adam 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.”
Miguel García-Garibay, dean of the UCLA Division of Physical Sciences and a professor of chemistry and biochemistry, said, “UCLA has an exceptional faculty — world-leaders in their fields. The quality of our faculty research is mind-boggling, and I’m delighted but not surprised that UCLA is No. 1 in faculty awarded 2022 Sloan Research Fellowships.”
UCLA’s 2022 recipients are:
Assistant professor of economics
An expert in macroeconomics and international trade, Baqaee studies the role production networks play in business cycles and economic growth. His research tackles a central macroeconomic dilemma known as the aggregation problem, which involves reasoning about the behavior of aggregates composed of many interacting heterogenous parts — for instance, how shocks to oil production or trade barriers in parts of supply chains may affect real GDP. He has also studied monetary and fiscal policy, the macroeconomics of monopoly power and the macroeconomic consequences of supply and demand shocks caused by COVID-19. A faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research, Baqaee is also affiliated with the Center for Economic Policy and Research.
Assistant professor of economics
Assistant professor of public policy, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs
Bau studies a variety of topics in development and education economics, with an emphasis on the industrial organization of educational markets. Her research has looked at how cultural traditions affect economic decision-making, how interpersonal skills facilitate intergenerational investment, whether government policy can change culture, and the effects of human capital investment in countries with child labor. She is affiliated with the Center for Economic and Policy Research and is a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Assistant professor of biological chemistry, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
Using bioinformatics, single-cell genomics and developmental neurobiology, Bhaduri studies how the human brain is created with billions of cells, as well as how certain cellular building blocks can reappear later in life in brain cancers. She is detailing the hundreds or thousands of cell types in the developing brain, allowing her to produce cell atlases that improve our understanding of glioblastoma. Her research is revealing how stem cells give rise to the human brain during cortical development and how aspects of this development can be “hijacked” in glioblastoma and other brain cancers.
Assistant professor of computer science, UCLA Samueli School of Engineering
Gu leads UCLA’s Statistical Machine Learning Lab. In his research on machine learning, he is developing and analyzing what are known as non-convex optimization algorithms to understand large-scale, dynamic, complex and heterogeneous data and is building the theoretical foundations of deep learning. Gu aims to make machine learning algorithms more efficient and reliable for a variety of applications, including recommendation systems, computational genomics, artificial intelligence for personalized health care, and government decision-making. In March 2020, he and his research team launched a machine learning model to predict the spread of COVID-19 — a model that has informed predictions by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Assistant professor of inorganic chemistry
Liu, who holds UCLA’s Jeffrey and Helo Zink Career Development Chair, is an authority on electrochemical systems for energy and biology. His laboratory combines expertise in inorganic chemistry, nanomaterials and electrochemistry to address challenging questions in catalysis, energy conversion, microbiota, and carbon dioxide and nitrogen — with important implications for the environment. In 2020, he received $1.9 million from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to conduct research on electrochemically controlled microbial communities, and in 2017, Science News chose him as one of 10 Scientists to Watch who are “ready to transform their fields.”
Assistant professor of mathematics and statistics
Montúfar, who leads the Mathematical Machine Learning Group — centered at UCLA and the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences, in Germany — works on deep learning theory and mathematical machine learning. Through investigations of the geometry of data, hypothesis functions and parameters, he and his team are developing the mathematical foundations of deep learning and improving learning with neural networks. Montúfar is the recipient of a starting grant from the European Research Council and a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation, and he serves as research mentor with the Latinx Mathematicians Research Community. He and his team have organized a weekly online math machine learning seminar since 2020.
Assistant professor of Earth, planetary and space sciences
Moon studies the weathering and erosion or bedrock using various methods, including fieldwork, laboratory analysis, topographic analysis, numerical models, near-surface geophysics and rock mechanics. Among her research topics is physical and chemical bedrock weathering, which affects groundwater storage and soil nutrient supply and can result in natural hazards like earthquake-induced landslides and debris flows. Her expertise includes tectonic geomorphology, low-temperature geochemistry and quaternary geochronology, as well as quantitative geomorphic analysis and landscape evolution of Earth and other planetary bodies.
Assistant professor of physics and astronomy
Solon, a member of UCLA’s Mani L. Bhaumik Institute for Theoretical Physics, holds the David S. Saxon Presidential Term Chair in Physics. His research explores phenomena that can be described using the mathematical and physical tools of theoretical high-energy physics. He focuses on using new and wide-ranging applications of quantum field theory to understand the nature of dark matter, the large-scale structure of the cosmos and gravitational waves. He was awarded the J.J. and Noriko Sakurai Dissertation Award, the American Physical Society’s highest honor for doctoral research in theoretical particle physics.
Sloan Research Fellowships are intended to enhance the careers of exceptional young scientists and scholars in chemistry, computer science, Earth system science, economics, mathematics, neuroscience and physics. Fellows receive a two-year, $75,000 award to support their research from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which was established in 1934.
Fifty-three Sloan Research Fellows have gone on to win Nobel Prizes, including Andrea Ghez, UCLA’s Lauren B. Leichtman and Arthur E. Levine Professor of Astrophysics, in 2020. Seventeen have won the Fields Medal in mathematics, 69 have received the National Medal of Science and 22 have won the John Bates Clark Medal in economics.