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Six young faculty members named Terman Fellows
STANFORD -- Six young science, engineering and medical school faculty members whose work ranges from atomic physics to developmental neurobiology have been named Frederick E. Terman Fellows.
The new Terman Fellows, who all hold the rank of assistant professor, are Ben Andrews, mathematics; Mary Baker, computer science and electrical engineering; G. Scott Herron, dermatology; Mark Kasevich, physics; Thomas A. Rando, neurology and neurological sciences; and Michael Simon, biological sciences.
This is the third group of fellows to be named since the program was launched in 1994 with a $25 million gift from William Hewlett and David Packard. The two alumni of the Electrical Engineering Department at Stanford and founders of the Hewlett-Packard Co. endowed the fellowships as a tribute to the late provost Terman, to whom they give credit for much of their own success, as well as Stanford's and Silicon Valley's.
The fellowships are designed to help young scientists who face increasing competition for federal grants, by helping them establish their own laboratories and recruit graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. The fellowships provide each recipient with up to $100,000 in unrestricted funds annually for three years.
Junior faculty members in science departments in the School of Humanities and Sciences and the School of Engineering are eligible. Awards also are made to faculty in the schools of Earth Sciences and Medicine on a rotating basis.
Andrews is a leading researcher in the mathematics of curvature and convexity, and processes of smoothing or deformation of geometric shapes. Although his research involves pure mathematics, some of it can provide mathematical models that help explain physical processes.
Take the case of the 20-year-old conjecture of Firey, which Andrews recently solved. The conjecture asserts that stones rubbing together on a beach should gradually become round in shape. According to Andrews, the equation that describes the wearing process was a tough one to solve, even when a number of simplifying assumptions, such as requiring that all the rocks be homogeneous and made of the same basic material, are included. In mathematical terms, it is a highly non-linear partial differential equation that "took some fairly tricky mathematics to solve," he said.
The key to the solution was Andrews' development of some new methods in the geometry of convex bodies. Some of those methods also can be applied to other physical processes like crystal growth.
Another set of equations that Andrews is working on appear to be useful in the area of image processing. They can be used to smooth out pictures so that "gadgets" equipped with computer vision can recognize objects more readily, he said.
Andrews came to Stanford in 1993 after receiving his Ph.D. from Australian National University. He said he will be using money from the fellowship to bring collaborators to campus for visits, for his own travel, and to organize a math workshop next year.
Baker and her research group are working to make portable computers truly mobile, connected to a network wherever they go. Their MosquitoNet project is a testbed for research into operating system and application issues in mobile and wireless computing. In their announcement, the Terman Awards committee called Baker "a key contributor in Stanford's thrust in mobile communications, [whose] research draws great interest from industrial partners in the Center for Telecommunications."
Interested in computer operating systems, distributed systems, file systems and software fault tolerance, Baker earned her Ph.D. from the University of California-Berkeley in 1994.
The MosquitoNet goal of ubiquitous and continuous connectivity requires work on many levels, as the lab devises ways to allow equipment and software to adapt seamlessly to the characteristics of the networks encountered while traveling around. For example, when a MosquitoNet-linked laptop is unplugged from a cable-based ethernet connection, it switches automatically to radio-based communication.
Baker says she will use the Terman Award to support students and to add equipment to the testbed network, so that additional users can test its limits. In addition, she says, she will support travel to conferences for her students. "My adviser did this for me, and it was an important part of my education," she said.
G. Scott Herron
Dr. Herron specializes in studies of the capillary blood vessels in the skin, conducting basic research on how blood vessels are involved in the synthesis and degradation of connective tissue. He earned a Ph.D. from Oregon State University in 1983 and an M.D. from the University of Southern California in 1989, and joined Stanford's Department of Dermatology in 1994.
He plans to use the Terman Award to support his research program on the involvement of CD34 (Human Progenitor Cell Antigen) in the growth of new blood vessels during wound healing and in cancer cell metastasis. This research has implications for the development of novel methods to detect new blood vessel formation in response to tumors. It may lead to methods to block or reverse blood vessel growth with the hope of modifying the process of cancer cell metastasis.
Kasevich is an experimental atomic physicist. He specializes in the use of lasers to explore the fundamental properties of atoms.
He joined the physics faculty in 1992 after earning his Ph.D. from Stanford. The Terman Awards committee called him "one of the leading experimental atomic physicists in his age group."
Kasevich's research team recently has constructed a new type of gyroscope. It relies on the fact that atoms can act like waves rather than particles under certain circumstances. By cooling an atom down to a few millionths of a degree above absolute zero, the theoretical temperature at which all motion ceases, its wavelike behavior is enhanced. As a result, the atom can be forced to split like a wave rather than break apart like a collection of particles.
So, by shooting an ultracold beam of atoms at a special reflective surface called a half mirror, the researchers can force the atoms in a beam to split in half. Each half travels a different course before recombining. If the device experiences even the slightest amount of rotation, one half of the atom travels further than the other and this causes a detectable change in the properties of the reconstituted atoms.
The Kasevich group's device is the first to demonstrate a sensitivity comparable to similar gyroscopes made using photons. Such ultrasensitive gyroscopes ultimately could find application in inertial navigation systems, precision mapping and mineral exploration.
Another major pursuit in his laboratory is an attempt to use lasers to cool groups of atoms to such ultracold temperatures that they create a strange new state of matter called a Bose-Einstein condensate. In this condensate, individual atoms appear to lose their identity and the group acts as if it were a single entity. So far only a handful of laboratories have successfully achieved this condition. "I think we are very close. When we get it we have a number of experiments that we would like to perform," Kasevich said.
Kasevich will use the fellowship to support additional graduate students and purchase additional instruments required for his current research pursuits. The extra support will be particularly valuable in the Bose-Einstein condensate work because the area is extremely competitive, he said.
Thomas A. Rando
"Dr. Rando's research has the potential to make major contributions to the area of neuromuscular diseases," the Terman Awards committee said.
He will use his award to continue his study of the pathogenic mechanism underlying the death of muscle cells in muscular dystrophy. By pursing basic pathogenetic processes, he said that he hopes to advance the understanding of the relationship between gene expression and disease expression, and to extend that understanding to novel therapeutic approaches for various types of muscular dystrophy disorders which are currently untreatable.
Dr. Rando received an M.D. and a Ph.D. in cell and developmental biology from Harvard in 1987 and was chief resident in neurology at the University of California-San Francisco before coming to Stanford.
Simon is working to understand how an individual cell chooses the type of cell that it will become. "This is an important question in the biology of multi-celled organisms because the organs and tissues of a body cannot function effectively unless all of the required types of cells are present in their proper location," he says.
Simon is a developmental biologist who received his Ph.D. in 1987 from the University of California-San Francisco and came to Stanford in 1992. To study cell decisions, his lab currently focuses on how a particular cell in the eye of the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogastor, chooses to become a photoreceptor cell rather than a lens-making cell. That decision starts when one cell in the developing fly embryo sends a signal to a neighboring cell. "We study what happens inside the receiving cell," Simon says.
By studying this cellular decision and the genes, hormones and receptors that influence it, Simon and his colleagues have identified key components of decisions made in even more complicated organisms, including humans. They also have shed light on some of the major events in the growth of cancerous tumors, which begin with a cell's decision to proliferate in response to a signal. misinterpreted by the cell's receptors.
Simon plans to use his Terman Award primarily to support the work of his graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. "That means people can stay long enough so they can finish the research projects they're working on, he says. "It helps me and it helps the people in my lab, and that's the thing I like best."
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