Four Awarded Early Career Fellowships

Four faculty members were recognized by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for their contributions in their selected fields of study.

College of Computing Assistant Professors Adam Kalai and Nick Feamster, along with School of Biology Associate Professor King Jordan, were named 2008 Sloan Research Fellows. Sam Nunn School of International Affairs Assistant Professor Dan Breznitz-currently in China-was awarded one of five 2008 Sloan Industry Studies Fellowships.

Feamster's research centers on network operations and communications. He is currently working with students on network operations and protocols and platforms for improving network connectivity.

"Ultimately, my goal is to improve the reliability and operation of communication networks using a first-principles approach. It is a great honor to have received this prestigious award, and I am pleased to see the recognition of my research area," Feamster said. "This recognition is also a reflection of the great work of many of my students and collaborators."

Some of his contributions include work on a routing configuration compiler that analyzes a network's complex router configurations to predict their behavior and a technique for recognizing the behavior of and detecting spam on a network level. He is a member of the Georgia Tech Information Security Center and is part of the Networking Group in the School of Computer Science.

Since he says much of network operations 'still remains a black art,' Feamster will use the grant for support of his existing research. "I am trying to develop principled methods to make communications networks like the Internet easier for all of us to use and rely on."

Kalai, whose work centers on online algorithms and machine learning theory, will use the grant as an opportunity to expand his research. His algorithims have contributed to an online linear optimization issue, learning parity functions in the presence of random noise and a new proof of a stock market strategy, the Universal Portfolio. He is a member of the Algorithims & Randomness Center Thinktank.

"I intend to use it to branch out into game theory, a relatively new area for me, and to continue my existing work on machine learning-specifically noise-tolerant learning algorithims," Kalai said. "The grant is both an honor and a useful funding source. Among other things, it will allow me to travel, and bring in visitors and postdocs that I could not [otherwise] do."

Jordan's lab, the Evolutionary Systems Biology Group, is conducting research in the areas of transposition, regulation and computational genomics on eukaryotes, or cells organized into complex structures by internal membranes. Two major projects are under way, including a collaborative effort with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in sequencing the bacterium Neisseria meningitides, the main cause of bacterial meningitis. "It's a big honor, and I'm really excited about it," Jordan said. "The CDC is sequencing the bacterium's genome, enabling us to look at infectious disease from a genomic level."

His lab's other main focus is in using computational genomics to research gene expression, which Jordan describes as a genome-an organism's entire hereditary information-having certain sequences either active or inactive. "We'll understand more about what factors affect gene expression, both in terms of evolution and disease."

Announced annually, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation recognizes and rewards the work and research of early career faculty conducting ground-breaking research. Sloan Research Fellowships, initially awarded in 1955, result in a two-year, $50,000 grant for each fellow. Nominees are chosen by senior faculty members in September and recognize a professor's research in physics, chemistry, computational and evolutionary molecular biology, computer science, economics, mathematics and neuroscience.

Breznitz is in the middle of a multi-location field study on the different economic growth impacts of innovation in varied locales, including the United States, China, India, Israel and France. He said he will use the grant to augment the research and hopes to devote himself more to such research in the field.

"Professionally, the award is very important for someone like me who is conducting a lot of multidisciplinary research, which involves close contact with the real nitty-gritty world of industrial innovation and [a] close connection with engineering," he said.

From a broader standpoint, Breznitz appreciated the timing of the award, as the first doctoral candidates in Science Technology and International Affairs are being admitted to the Sam Nunn School. "We hope to create [graduate doctoral students] with solid backgrounds in science and engineering, whose degree is in social science focusing on the international aspects of science and technology. This award should signal there is both a need for and recognition of such research."

The Industry Studies Fellowship-also the result of nomination by a senior faculty member-started in 2005. Fellows receive a two-year, $45,000 grant, recognizing their efforts to increase awareness of influences shaping today's industries. Junior faculty members recognized are from varied disciplines, including economics, management, engineering and political science.

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