MCS Faculty Earn Young Investigator Awards

Over the past few years, MCS has recruited a number of dynamic young faculty who work in emerging fields and are poised to change the future of science. In the last year, four of these investigators won prestigious national young investigator awards.

Florian Frick, assistant professor of mathematical sciences, is among 126 recipients of 2019 Sloan Research Fellowships, which honor early career scholars whose achievements put them among the very best scientific minds.

“Sloan Research Fellows are the best young scientists working today,” said Adam F. Falk, president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “Sloan fellows stand out for their creativity, for their hard work, for the importance of the issues they tackle, and the energy and innovation with which they tackle them. To be a Sloan fellow is to be in the vanguard of 21st century science.”

The award will support Frick’s research that spans combinatorics, topology and geometry. 

Aryn Gittis, associate professor of biological sciences, received the Janett Rosenberg Trubatch Career Development Award from the Society for Neuroscience (SfN). The award, supported by the Trubatch family, recognizes originality and creativity in research and promotes success for early career scientists.

A statement from SfN said “[Gittis] has quickly established herself as an emerging leader in the study of the basal ganglia.”

Gittis’ work focuses on teasing apart the complex neural circuitry of the basal ganglia, an area of the brain that plays a role in movement, learning, motivation and reward. Her work uses new technologies, including optogenetics, to determine how changes and breakdowns in these circuits result in movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease.

Ben Hunt, assistant professor in the Department of Physics, was named a 2019 Cottrell Scholar. Twenty-four of the nation’s top early career scientists received the designation from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA) in recognition of their leadership in integrating science teaching and research.

“The Cottrell Scholar program champions the very best early career teacher-scholars in chemistry, physics and astronomy by providing these significant discretionary awards,” said RCSA President and CEO Daniel Linzer.

Hunt will use the support from the scholar program to further his research in the role of crystal symmetry in superconductivity, extending his work to a new class of 2D materials. He will also create an undergraduate condensed matter lab that will give students the opportunity to investigate 2D materials and create their own experiments. 

Yongxin (Leon) Zhao, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, received a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s New Innovator Award, which is part of the NIH’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research program.

The program supports risky ideas that have the potential for great impact in biomedical research, and catalyzes scientific discovery by supporting compelling, high-risk research proposals that may struggle in the traditional peer review process despite their transformative potential.

The grant will support Zhao as he develops transformative nanoscale imaging techniques, including expansion microscopy, that will allow researchers to see precise “biomolecule maps” in pathology samples. These maps will allow for the comprehensive analysis of complex diseases, such as cancer, infection and immune diseases.