April 29, 2004
Vol. 23 No. 15

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    Four on faculty receive Sloan fellowships

    By Steve Koppes and Catherine Gianaro
    News Office, Medical Center Public Affairs

    The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has selected four University scientists to receive 2004 Sloan Research Fellowships. Ilya Gruzberg, Assistant Professor in Physics and the College; Rustem Ismagilov, Assistant Professor in Chemistry; Mark Kisin, Assistant Professor in Mathematics and the College; and Jonathan Pritchard, Assistant Professor in Human Genetics, are among 116 scientists and economists named from 51 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada.

    Now in its 49th year, the Sloan Research Fellowship Program has supported more than 3,900 young researchers by awarding more than $103 million in research funding. Each of the four Chicago recipients will receive $40,000 to pursue whatever lines of inquiry are of most interest to them.

    A committee of scholars that included Lars Hansen, the Homer J. Livingston Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and the College, and Martin Kreitman, Professor in Ecology & Evolution and the College, reviewed more than 500 nominations for the 2003 fellowships.

    Gruzberg uses a new mathematical tool called the Loewner equation to describe various random shapes in two dimensions. He is especially interested in the problems of diffusion-limited aggregation, a pattern of irregular growth first described by Thomas Witten, Professor in Physics and the College. Such branchlike patterns characterize how small particles cluster into large objects with unusual shapes.

    Gruzberg received his undergraduate degree from Perm University in Russia and earned his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1998. He followed his postdoctoral assignment at the University of California, Santa Barbara, with a Pappalardo Fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He joined the Chicago faculty in 2002.

    Ismagilov studies how microfluidics—the flow of fluids through channels narrower than a human hair—might be used to control chemical reaction networks. This year Ismagilov used microfluidics to create a simple chemical reaction network that reproduced the function of a complex biochemical reaction network of hemostasis (responsible for blood clotting). Chemical & Engineering News described this method as a starting point for investigating other complex networks.

    Ismagilov has a bachelor’s degree from the Higher Chemical College of the Russian Academy of Sciences and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin. He joined the Chicago faculty in 2001, following a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University.

    Kisin’s research concerns the relationship between representation theory and number theory. He uses p-adic methods to study the connection between modular forms, which are certain complex functions with a very large number of symmetries, and arithmetic geometry, which deals with integer solutions of algebraic equations.

    Kisin received two bachelor’s degrees from the Monash University in Australia. He completed his Ph.D. degree at Princeton University in 1998, then held an Australian Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Sydney. He became a Chicago faculty member in 2003.

    Pritchard is developing novel statistical methods to model and analyze data on genetic variations in humans and other species. His research encompasses a wide range of applications, including studying various problems in evolutionary and population biology and complex disease genetics through “linkage disequilibrium mapping.” The latter is a technique used to find genes of modest effect that contribute to disease susceptibility.

    Pritchard double-majored at Penn State University, graduating in 1994 with degrees in biology and mathematics. After earning a Ph.D. in biology at Stanford University in 1998, he did postdoctoral work in statistical genetics at the University of Oxford until 2001, when he came to Chicago.