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Three Jacobs School engineers honored as Sloan Fellows

Shachar Lovett is an expert in computational theory. 

San Diego, Calif., March 2, 2015 -- Three engineers at the University of California, San Diego, are being honored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation with Sloan Research Fellowships for 2015. This year’s recipients are computer scientist Shachar Lovett, Padmini Rangamani, from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and nanoengineer Andrea Tao. 

The fellowships seek to boost fundamental research by early-career scientists and scholars of outstanding promise. The two-year awards go to 126 researchers yearly in recognition of distinguished performance and a unique potential to make substantial contributions to their field. 

"Their achievements and potential place them among the next generation of scientific leaders in the U.S. and Canada," noted the Foundation in a full-page New York Times advertisement, adding that since 1955, "Sloan Research Fellows have gone on to win 43 Nobel Prizes, 16 Fields Medal, 65 National Medals of Science" and numerous other honors.

Lovett is an expert in computational complexity. He studies the foundations of computer science and how computational problems can be efficiently solved. "As the scientific, engineering and life sciences communities continue to be transformed by new, ever larger data sets, the motivation for designing very efficient algorithms to manipulate, store and transfer data is becoming ever more clear," said Lovett in his research statement to the Foundation. "Specifically I study how the interplay between structure and randomness plays a central role in algorithm design and analysis."

Padmini Rangamani's work combines computational and evolutionary molecular biology.

Rangamani’s work lies at the intersection of computational and evolutionary molecular biology. She has a unique perspective on these issues: she has a Ph.D. in biology and a master’s and bachelor’s in chemical engineering. “We need to keep the conversation going between physicians and engineers,” she said. Here at UC San Diego, she is partnering with several researchers at the School of Medicine to examine how a particular protein affects cells responsible for aging and heart disease. The ultimate goal is to find mechanisms that could lead to better drugs. “If we want effective treatments, we need to understand how cells behave,” Rangamani said. “There are a lot of forces and mechanical principles at work, in addition to chemistry. If we can target cells better, we can design therapeutics better.”

Tao’s research brings together materials science, chemistry and biology. She is investigating nanoparticle synthesis and assembly for the fabrication of advanced nanoscale composites. “A critical need in nanotechnology is the development of new tools and methods to organize, connect and integrate solid-state nanocomponents,” Tao explains. “We are developing new chemical and simulations tools for self-assembly – where components spontaneously organize themselves – to construct large-scale architectures using solid-state nanocrystal building blocks.” Applications for her research include photovoltaics, chemical sensing, and optical coatings. 

Andrea Tao's research brings together materials science, chemistry and biology. 

In addition to the three researchers at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego, two other UC San Diego faculty have received the fellowships: Paul Niehaus in economics and Bradley Voytek in neuroscience. 

It’s also worth noting that an alumnus of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at UC San Diego has received a fellowship this year. Thomas Ristenpart earned his Ph.D. in computer science in 2010 and is now at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Ristenpart is a frequent co-author on cyber security or cryptography papers with several UC San Diego computer scientists, including Hovav Shacham, Mihir Bellare and Stefan Savage.

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Media Contacts

Ioana Patringenaru
Jacobs School of Engineering
Phone: 858-822-0899
ipatrin@ucsd.edu

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