Three Sloans for research

Three Penn scientists have received research awards from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation this year. Intended to enhance the careers of the very best young faculty members, 100 of these grants are awarded across the nation annually in six fields: chemistry, computer science, economics, mathematics, neuroscience and physics.

Jay Kikkawa, Ph.D., assistant professor of physics and astronomy, studies unusual and mysterious types of magnets. His group uses extremely brief laser pulses to measure the unique properties of these materials, which could help create a new generation of computers, electronics and sensors.

Marc Schmidt, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology, studies vocal learning in songbirds as a model for understanding the neural mechanisms that underlie vocal production and learning in humans. Schmidt’s lab recently found that a key brain structure involved in song production does not respond to auditory stimuli when the bird is awake, even though it responds when the bird is asleep or anesthetized. The researchers are now exploring what triggers or blocks the neural response.

Matthew Strassler, Ph.D., assistant professor of physics and astronomy, explores the fundamental building blocks of the universe, the forces by which they interact with one another, and their impact on our daily experience and on the universe as a whole. The fundamental forces of nature that Strassler studies affect how stars work, how galaxies form and why the universe has four dimensions.


Originally published on April 5, 2001