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Two University of Illinois professors win 2008 Sloan Fellowships


Stephanie Lulay, News Bureau

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — A University of Illinois professor has been named a recipient of an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation research fellowship. ChengXiang Zhai, a professor of computer science, was among 118 early career researchers from 64 colleges and universities who will receive grants of $50,000 for a two-year period.

“The Sloan Research Fellowships support the work of exceptional young researchers early in their academic careers, and often at pivotal stages in their work,” says Paul L. Joskow, the president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Zhai’s research interests include information retrieval, text mining, natural language processing, machine learning and bioinformatics in computer science. He is interested in intelligent information access centered on a search engine retrieval system that would track a user’s interest and recommend relevant information items to the user. Zhai was among 58 young researchers named recipients of the 2004 Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on young professionals at the outset of their independent research careers.

Michael Strano, who was in the U. of I. department of chemical and biomolecular engineering, also was awarded a fellowship. He now is at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and retains an adjunct professorship at Illinois. Strano developed a technique to chemically select and separate carbon nanotubes based on their electronic structure.

Sloan Research Fellowships have been awarded since 1955.