Four Illinois professors named Sloan Research Fellows

By Karen Liu, Leon Li and Vivienne Henning

Four Illinois professors have been granted 2017 Sloan Research Fellowships for their research in their respective fields. The recipients are professors Jefferson Chan, David Sarlah, Joaquin Vieira and Josh Vura-Weis.

According to the Sloan foundation, the program “seeks to stimulate fundamental research by early-career scientists and scholars of outstanding promise.” The recipients are awarded $60,000 in recognition of their research.

Assistant Professor of Chemistry Jefferson Chan joined UIUC in 2014. His research focuses are photoacoustic imaging for the early diagnosis of cancer, the study and treatment of tuberculosis and the study of neuronal cell death that leads to neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s.

Assistant Professor of Chemistry David Sarlah joined UIUC in 2014. His research involves working with biologically active natural products and aims for the “advancement of the science of synthesis,” with applications to chemical biology, material science and medicine.

Josh Vura-Weis, assistant professor of chemistry, joined UIUC in 2013. His research involves using laser techniques to study inorganic and organometallic systems.

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“There are many chemical reactions that nature does very well, such as turning nitrogen gas into ammonia or splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen gas,” Vura-Weis said. “We use laser pulses shorter than a trillionth of a second to measure how these reactions occur so that we can understand nature’s design and hopefully allow chemists to develop new, cheaper processes.”

Joaquin Vieira, assistant professor of astronomy, joined UIUC in 2013. As the director of the Observational Cosmology Laboratory at UIUC, Vieira’s research “explores the universe through the echos of the Big Bang, known as the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMD).”

Vieira said that his team been able to deploy a new camera in the South Pole and has a graduate student spending the long winter there getting everything set up to work. Vieira is also preparing to his first launch and observation with the James Webb Space Telescope, along with his participation in a design team with NASA to develop larger, acoler telescopes for the future.

“(On being named a Sloan Research Fellow) It is a real honor,” he said in an email exchange. “It is also humbling, in the sense that it has made me reflect on all the people who have helped me get where I am today.”

Karen Liu, Leon Li and Vivienne Henning contributed to this report.

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