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USC College Faculty Awarded Sloan Fellowships

USC College Faculty Awarded Sloan Fellowships

Fifth in math, third in biology in the last six years

By Kaitlin Solimine
March 2005

Evolutionary geneticist Jeffrey Wall and mathematician Tobias Ekholm have been named Sloan Research Fellows.

Established in 1955 by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Sloan Research Fellowships provide young scientists and scholars the financial support and recognition necessary to jumpstart their research careers.

“Many of the best scientists around the country were nominated for this very competitive award,” says Joseph Aoun, dean of USC College. “We are proud, but not surprised, that two of our faculty were recognized in the same year. After all, during the last six years faculty from the math department have received five Sloan fellowships. Certainly, Jeffrey and Tobias have very bright futures and this most recent accomplishment is to be commended. They are both testaments to the fact that USC College is engaged in innovative research that has the potential to positively influence society.”

Wall, assistant professor of biological sciences since fall 2003, analyzes DNA sequences to better understand the origins and evolution of life on earth as well as the history of human migration. His work in human genetics is helpful in determining the genetic basis for complex diseases such as asthma or hypertension.

“The Sloan fellowships give young researchers the resources and flexibility needed to establish their research programs,” says Wall, a member of the computational biology research group at the College. “I hope that the research I do while receiving the fellowship will help us acquire a clearer understanding of our own history as a species, and that this knowledge will eventually be useful for the development of treatments or cures for common diseases.”

An assistant professor of mathematics, Ekholm joined USC College in fall 2004. His research focuses on a wide array of problems in topology and geometry, and he has attracted attention for his work on the topology and geometry of knots, surfaces and higher dimensional manifolds. Some of Ekholm’s research has proven useful in modern theoretical physics.

Ekholm says he intends to use the fellowship funding to allow him to spend more time on his research, and to work with physical chemists on a collaborative project to simulate gels on a microscopic scale.

Each year, 116 Sloan Fellows are selected out of a pool of nearly 500 nominated applicants. Fellowships are awarded in the fields of physics, chemistry, mathematics, neuroscience, economics, computer science and computational and evolutionary molecular biology.