Auralee Edelen and Wai Ling Wu receive 2020 Panofsky Fellowships at SLAC

Auralee Edelen (left) and Wai Ling Wu have been named the 2020 Panofsky Fellows at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. Both are harnessing the power of machine learning to make progress in their fields. (Jacqueline Orrell/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

AURALEE EDELEN and WAI LING “KIMMY” WU have been named the 2020 Panofsky Fellows at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. Both are harnessing the power of machine learning to make progress in their fields. Edelen’s research focuses on transforming the way scientists tune particle accelerators for experiments, while Wu is working to solve long-standing mysteries in astrophysics and cosmology.

The Panofsky Fellowship, named after SLAC’s founder and first director Wolfgang K. H. “Pief” Panofsky, recognizes exceptional early-career scientists who would most benefit from the opportunity to do their research at the lab, providing funding for five years of research and an opportunity for continuing appointment at SLAC.

Edelen, who came to SLAC in 2018 after working with the DOE’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), says that even as a kid she was fascinated by how problems are solved in natural systems – for instance, the way plant roots transport water and nutrients from the ground efficiently, or the way ant colonies search for food. In high school, she remembers reading about how scientists use algorithms to solve problems by mimicking these sorts of natural processes.

Wu’s Panofsky Fellowship is actually a sort of homecoming. From 2009 to 2015 she was a graduate student at Stanford and did much of her dissertation research at SLAC, working on observations of the cosmic microwave background radiation – the oldest light in the universe, which dates to about 380,000 years after the Big Bang. While its glow is almost completely even across the sky, physicists discovered tiny variations in the CMB in the 1990s that have already yielded important clues about the structure of the early universe, among them hints about how matter clumped together early on to seed the formation of galaxies including our own Milky Way.

Read the full article on the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory website.