University of Chicago professors awarded Sloan Fellowships

Steve Koppes
Associate News DirectorUniversity Communications

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has selected three University of Chicago scholars to receive 2008 Sloan research fellowships. Aaron Dinner, Assistant Professor in Chemistry; Margaret Gardel, Assistant Professor in Physics; and Andrej Zlatoš, Assistant Professor in Mathematics, are among 118 scholars named Sloan research fellows from colleges and universities in North America.

Now in their 53rd year, the Sloan research fellowships are intended to enhance the careers of the best young faculty members in chemistry, computational and evolutionary biology, computer science, economics, mathematics, neuroscience and physics. Each fellowship includes a $50,000 grant.

Dinner is using his award to develop new theoretical methods for understanding molecular mechanisms in systems that are fueled by the constant input of energy or matter. These methods are needed to describe the physical chemistry of many processes in living cells. He is applying his methods specifically to studies directed at elucidating design principles of genetic circuits important for the development and function of cells that make up the immune system.

Dinner received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1999, then conducted postdoctoral research at the University of Oxford in England and the University of California, Berkeley. His previous honors include the National Science Foundation CAREER Award (2006) and the Dreyfus Foundation New Faculty Award (2003). Dinner was named a Searle Scholar in 2005. He joined the Chicago faculty in 2003.

Gardel specializes in soft condensed matter physics — the rules governing the deformation of materials such as biological tissue, shaving cream and gelatin. She investigates how living, biological matter differs from inert, physical matter. Her work may ultimately provide biomedical scientists with the means of devising new therapies for the treatment of cancer and other diseases. She also is part of a Chicago research team that has launched a study of catastrophic deformation research in cell division and other natural processes, with funding from the W.M. Keck Foundation.

Gardel received her Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2004. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship in physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and another in cell biology at Scripps Research Institute in California. She received a Director’s Pioneer Award from the National Institutes of Health in 2007, shortly after joining the Chicago faculty.

Zlatoš works in the area of reaction-diffusion equations, which are mathematical models of processes such as forest fires, chemical reactions and burning in internal-combustion engines. His research focuses on understanding how these processes are affected by changes in the motion of liquid or gaseous media in which they take place. Turbulent motion can act both as catalyst and inhibitor, improving effectiveness of combustion on one hand and extinguishing a fire on the other. Zlatoš studies which properties of such motion are responsible for the occurrence of these and other phenomena in reactive processes.

Zlatoš received his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 2003. He served as the Van Vleck Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, before joining the Chicago faculty in 2006, where his research has been funded by the National Science Foundation.