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Three U. of I. faculty members selected as 2012 Sloan Fellows

2/20/2012 | Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor | 217-244-1073;

[ Email | Share ] CHAMPAIGN,Ill. — Three University of Illinois professors have each been selected to receive a 2012 Sloan Research Fellowship from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Neal K. Dalal, Vera Mikyoung Hur and Sheng Zhong are among 126 early career scientists and researchers from 51 colleges and universities chosen for a two-year fellowship. In keeping with its goal of recognizing potential groundbreaking researchers in their respective fields, the Sloan fellowship program awards fellows $50,000 to pursue their choice of research topics and allows them flexibility in applying funds toward their research.

‪Dalal, an astronomy professor, is interested in investigating the fundamental physics of cosmology, including the structure of the universe, the formation of galaxies and mysterious components in the universe such as dark matter and dark energy. He developed a simple physical model describing the physical properties of dark matter halos, which harbor all observed stars and galaxies. His group devised an entirely new probe of the physics of inflation in the early universe based on observed clustering of galaxies and their host halos. He also explores the physics of dark matter using millimeter-wave instrumentation to detect gravitational lenses.

Dalal received his doctorate in astronomy from the University of California at San Diego in 2002. He received a Hubble Fellowship from the Space Telescope Science Institute and was a senior research associate at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics before he joined the faculty at the U. of I. in 2011.

A professor of mathematics, Hur studies nonlinear partial differential equations that arise in physical contexts. She has particular interests in wave motions at the surface of water and related interfacial fluids flows, such as the Hele-Shaw problem. She explores geometric and physical properties of permanent and progressive waves in the ocean as well as their asymptotic behavior and disintegration. Recently, she has been also working on problems at the interface of partial differential equations and probability.

Hur earned her doctorate in mathematics at Brown University in 2006. She was an instructor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before joining the faculty at the U. of I. in 2009.

Bioengineering professor Zhong and his team study causal relationships among gene regulation, cell differentiation and cancer. His lab pioneered in systems biology modeling, stem-cell engineering and single-cell technologies. Zhong made important discoveries on the genetic differences of early embryonic development among humans, mice and cows. His work directly contributed to open the field of “comparative epigenomics” – using cross-species epigenomic comparison to annotate the genomes.

Zhong earned his doctorate in biostatistics at Harvard University in 2005. He is also a professor of biophysics and neuroscience and affiliated with the departments of computer science, statistics, and cell and developmental biology; the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology; the Institute for Genomic Biology; and the National Center for Supercomputer Applications.

Sloan Research Fellowships have been awarded since 1955.

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Editor's note: Cailun Gangi, a student intern in the News Bureau, contributed to this news release.

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