Three University of Chicago scientists named 2020 Sloan Fellows

Honor awarded to promising early-career scholars in their fields

Three University of Chicago scientists have earned prestigious Sloan Research Fellowships, which recognize early-career scientists’ potential to make substantial contributions to their fields.

This year’s UChicago winners include a computer scientist who studies the ecology of microbes, a chemist who creatives innovative tools to address human disease and a mathematician who helped prove the long-standing Zimmer conjecture.

Awarded since 1955 to the brightest young scientists across the United States and Canada, the two-year fellowships are one of the most competitive and prestigious awards available to early career researchers. This year’s 126 winners, announced Feb. 12, will receive two-year fellowships in the amount of $75,000 to further their innovative research.

An assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, A. Murat Eren (Meren) studies microbial lifestyles in a wide range of habitats that span oceans and the human gut to sewage infrastructures and insect ovaries. Meren and his group combine state-of-the-art computational strategies and molecular approaches to shed light on the ecology and evolution of naturally occurring microbial populations.

The members of his group are committed to making science open and accessible. They are among the most active developers of anvi’o, an open-source software platform that strives to empower microbiologists by providing analytical tools and visualization strategies that aid in comprehending the avalanche of new data that is reshaping microbiology.

He joined the University in 2015 from the UChicago-affiliated Marine Biological Laboratory.

Raymond Moellering is an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry whose work sits at the interface of chemistry and biology, with an eye toward understanding and intervening in human disease. His research specifically focuses on developing innovative chemical tools and technologies to understand how molecular information is communicated by proteins within and between cells. With this information his group can identify underlying mechanisms at play in diseases such as diabetes and cancer, and develop new approaches for disease diagnosis and treatment.

Moellering joined the University in 2015.

Sebastian Hurtado-Salazar is an assistant professor of mathematics. His research has been based on understanding topology and dynamics in low dimensions, group actions on manifolds and the Zimmer program, and diophantine properties of Lie groups.

In 2018, he and two other mathematicians announced a breakthrough proof of Zimmer’s conjecture, showing there’s some restrictions in how many symmetries a space can have and some special properties about higher-rank lattices.

Hurtado-Salazar joined the University in 2015.

Nearly 1,000 researchers are nominated each year for 126 fellowship slots.

“To receive a Sloan Research Fellowship is to be told by your fellow scientists that you stand out among your peers,” said Adam F. Falk, president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which administers the awards. “A Sloan Research Fellow is someone whose drive, creativity, and insight makes them a researcher to watch.”