Three Illinois professors awarded prestigious Sloan Research Fellowship

This past week three University of Illinois professors have each been selected by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to receive the 2012 Sloan Research Fellowship – a grant of 50,000 dollars to fund the research projects of their choice.

Each year since 1955 the Sloan Fellowship has been awarded to American and Canadian researchers in the fields of math and science. The award targets early-career researchers who have demonstrated themselves through achievements and display potential as leaders in their fields.

This year U of I professors Neal K. Dalal, Vera Mikyoung Hur and Sheng Zhong are among 126 early career scientists and researchers from 51 colleges and universities chosen for the two-year fellowship.

Dalal, assistant professor in astronomy, is interested in investigating the fundamental physics of cosmology, including the structure of the universe, the formation of galaxies and mysterious components in the universe such as dark matter and dark energy. He developed a simple physical model describing the physical properties of dark matter halos, which harbor all observed stars and galaxies. He also explores the physics of dark matter using millimeter-wave instrumentation to detect gravitational lenses. Dalal received his doctorate in astronomy from the University of California at San Diego in 2002.

A professor of mathematics, Hur studies nonlinear partial differential equations that arise in physical contexts. She has particular interests in wave motions at the surface of water and related interfacial fluids flows, such as the Hele-Shaw problem. Recently, she has been also working on problems at the interface of partial differential equations and probability. Hur earned her doctorate in mathematics at Brown University in 2006 and was an instructor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology coming to U of I in 2009.

Professor of bioengineering, biophysics and neuroscience – Zhong and his team study causal relationships among gene regulation, cell differentiation and cancer. His lab pioneered in systems biology modeling, stem-cell engineering and single-cell technologies. Zhong has made important discoveries on the genetic differences of early embryonic development among humans, mice and cows – his work directly contributing to open the field of “comparative epigenomics” which uses cross-species epigenomic comparison to annotate the genomes. Zhong earned his doctorate in biostatistics at Harvard University in 2005.

A full listing of the 2012 winners can be found on the Sloan Foundations “website”: