Three from UW named Sloan Research Fellows

Three UW faculty members are among 126 recipients of the 2013 Sloan Research Fellowships that were announced last week by the New York-based non-profit Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Awarded annually since 1955, the fellowships are given to scholars and scientists whose achievements and potential identify them as part of the next generation of scientific leaders.

Kiki Jenkins, an assistant professor of marine and environmental affairs, was one of eight recognized in the field of ocean sciences. Jenkins said that while she was surprised to receive the recognition, it would come as a surprise to anyone, as the best scholars in the United States and Canada apply for the fellowship in large numbers.

“It was very exciting,” Jenkins said. “The Sloan is a prestigious award, but I think what’s most important for me is that it’s a seal of approval from my peers.”

James Carothers, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, and Daniela Witten, an assistant professor of biostatistics in the School of Public Health, also received fellowships and were two of just 12 nationwide recognized in molecular biology.

Carothers, who came to the UW in the fall after completing a postdoctoral fellowship and serving as a research scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, called the acknowledgement gratifying and said it’s nice to have work he’s thought of as interesting get recognized by others.

Witten said the fellowship was an honor, and that being a biostatistician gives her a toolset to attempt to answer questions across many disciplines. This work has included developing statistical tools that can analyze large sets of data like the human genome, which could lead to more effective disease prevention and treatment. It was this work that garnered recognition from the Sloan Foundation.

“It feels like even more of an honor for me, given that I’m not a molecular biologist,” Witten said.

Dr. Paul Joskow, president of the Sloan Foundation, said Sloan Research Fellows are the best of the best among young scientists.

“If you want to know where the next big scientific breakthrough will come from, look to these extraordinary men and women,” Joskow said in a statement. “The Foundation is proud to support them during this pivotal stage of their careers.”

As part of the fellowship, each recipient also receives a grant of $50,000 over a two-year period, and all three UW recipients are making plans for the funds.

Witten said she’ll put the money toward funding Ph.D. students and continuing research with high-dimensional graphical modeling, while Carothers hopes to use the new resources for computational research, along with attending conferences and sending students to workshops. Jenkins also said she’ll use at least part of her grant to fund her students’ work.

Jenkins, Carothers, and Witten are the only three recipients of this year’s fellowships from the Pacific Northwest, with no other selections coming from schools in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, or Montana. This year’s recipients represent 61 colleges and universities across the United States and Canada.

Their selections also mark the fourth straight year the UW has produced at least three Sloan Research Fellows. Three UW faculty members were named Sloan Research Fellows in 2012 and 2010, with six receiving the honor in 2011.

Reach reporter Joe Veyera at news@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @JosephVeyera

Please read our Comment policy.