March 16, 2006
Vol. 25 No. 12

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    Four scholars receive Sloan fellowships

    By Steve Koppes and William Harms
    News Office

    The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has selected four University scholars to receive 2006 Sloan research fellowships. Cheng Chin, Assistant Professor in Physics and the College; Ali Hortacsu, Assistant Professor in Economics; Mihnea Popa, Assistant Professor in Mathematics and the College; and Wendy Zhang, Assistant Professor in Physics and the College, are among 116 scholars named Sloan research fellows from colleges and universities in North America.

    Now in their 51st year, the Sloan research fellowships are intended to enhance the careers of the best young faculty members in chemistry, computational and evolutionary molecular biology, computer science, economics, mathematics, neuroscience and physics. Each fellowship includes a $45,000 grant.

    Chin focuses much of his research on how ultracold molecules form a new state of matter that exists only at temperatures hundreds of degrees below zero. This superfluidic state of matter exhibits characteristics distinctively different from the solids, liquids and gases that dominate everyday life. Most notably, they can flow ceaselessly without energy loss.

    Chin has a B.S. in physics from National Taiwan University and a Ph.D. in physics from Stanford University. He joined the Chicago faculty in 2005, following visiting appointments at the University of Innsbruck, Austria, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.

    Hortacsu focuses his scholarship on studying auctions, with applications in Internet commerce, bond markets and energy markets. He has written papers on eBay, Treasury bond auctions and the Texas electricity market.

    He joined the Chicago faculty in 2001 and also has served as a visiting professor at Harvard and Northwestern universities.

    He received a B.S. and M.S. in electrical engineering in 1996 and a Ph.D. in economics in 2001, all from Stanford University.

    Popa specializes in algebraic geometry. Last year he received an American Mathematical Society Centennial fellowship for 2005-2006. These fellowships are awarded to no more than four mathematicians annually to help further their research careers. The National Science Foundation also supports Popa’s research.

    Popa received his B.S. in mathematics from the University of Bucharest in Romania and his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 2001. In 2002 he received the Sumner Myers Award for the best Ph.D. thesis in Mathematics at the University of Michigan. Before joining the Chicago faculty, he was a Benjamin Peirce assistant professor at Harvard University.

    Last year Zhang, Sidney R. Nagel, the Stein-Frieler Distinguished Service Professor in Physics and the College, and graduate student Lei Xu announced research showing that air pressure makes liquids splash when they crash onto a flat surface. The American Institute of Physics named the finding one of the top physics stories of 2005.

    Zhang earned her A.B. in physics, with magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa honors from Harvard University. She also has a Ph.D. in engineering sciences from Harvard University. A former postdoctoral fellow in the University’s James Franck Institute, Zhang joined the Chicago faculty in 2003. She also served a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Nonlinear Dynamics at the University of Texas, Austin.