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Six Stanford scientists receive Sloan Fellowships

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has chosen six Stanford scientists to receive Sloan Research Fellowships for 2003: Thomas R. Clandinin, assistant professor of neurobiology; Ronald Fedkiw, assistant professor of computer science; Ian R. Fisher, assistant professor of applied physics; David Goldhaber-Gordon, assistant professor of physics; Dmitri Petrov, assistant professor of biological sciences; and Vladan Vuletic, assistant professor of physics.

They are among 117 outstanding researchers in the United States and Canada to receive $40,000 each in unrestricted grants over the next two years. The fellowship program aims to support promising young researchers early in their careers.

Thomas Clandinin received his doctorate from Caltech in 1998 and joined the Department of Neurobiology as an assistant professor in 2002. He studies how intricate connections form between developing neurons in the visual system of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. One focus of his lab is to identify genes that control the hard-wired process of how the connections form during development. Some of the genes he has discovered play similar roles in the brains of mammals. He also has developed a way to disrupt specific neurons then monitor changes in how the fly behaves in response to visual images. This work could generate a map that relates individual nerve connections to specific behaviors.

Ronald Fedkiw joined the Department of Computer Science after earning his doctorate in mathematics from the University of California-Los Angeles in 1996 and doing postdoctoral studies at UCLA and Caltech. His research focuses on the design of new algorithms for several different computer applications, including computer graphics, computational biomechanics and fluid dynamics. He has received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Program Award and several other teaching and research awards. Fedkiw is on the editorial board of the Journal of Scientific Computing. He is co-author of Level Set Methods and Dynamic Implicit Surfaces.

Ian Fisher studies materials with unusual magnetic or electronic properties. He earned his doctorate from Cambridge University in 1996 and was a postdoctoral fellow at Iowa State University before joining the Stanford faculty in 2000. His laboratory produces single crystals of complex substances and examines how their electrons behave at low temperatures. Fisher is particularly interested in two types of substances: layered materials and complex magnetic materials. In addition to leading his own research group, Fisher interacts with several groups in the Department of Physics, the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and the Geballe Laboratory for Advanced Materials.

David Goldhaber-Gordon received his doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1999 and became an assistant professor in the Department of Physics in 2001. He studies the behavior of electrons in reduced dimensions, in wires as small as one hundred-thousandth the diameter of a human hair. In such narrow wires, electrons form a microscopic traffic jam as they try to flow but cannot get past each other. In another project, Goldhaber-Gordon is merging two technologies common refrigerator magnets and the transistors inside computers to find a way to turn a magnetic field on and off by applying an electric field. His research with these magnetic semiconductors could have many uses in future electronic devices.

Dmitri Petrov joined the Department of Biological Sciences in 2000, after earning his doctorate in evolutionary biology from Harvard and spending three years as a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows. Petrov's research focuses on the evolution of genes and genomes, with particular focus on the effects of non-random mutation on evolution. He discovered that different organisms lose DNA through spontaneous mutation at strikingly different rates, a finding may help explain the remarkable amount of variation in genome size among eukaryotes.

Vladan Vuletic's research bridges the theoretical and experimental aspects of quantum physics. His study of atoms at extremely cold temperatures includes devising new laser cooling techniques. One of Vuletic's goals is to find a way to cool and manipulate larger molecules, which could have important uses in chemistry and possibly biology. These cooling techniques also can be used to increase accuracy in measuring fundamental constants, as well as lead to more precise navigation devices. Vuletic became an assistant professor in 2000 after receiving his doctorate from the University of Munich, Germany, in 1997.


Medical Center Report writer Amy Adams contributed to this story.


By Bronwyn Barnett

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