Georgia Tech Faculty Takes Three Sloan Fellowships

Three faculty members from the Georgia Institute of Technology were awarded 2011 Sloan Research Fellowships by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Christopher J. Peikert, from the College of Computing, along with Silas D. Alben and Shina Tan in the College of Sciences, were three of 118 outstanding researchers selected from across the country. They were the only recipients of the award from the state of Georgia. Awarded annually since 1955, the fellowships are given to early-career scientists and scholars in recognition of achievement and the potential to contribute substantially to their fields.

Shina Tan
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Shina Tan, an assistant professor in the School of Physics, studies the theory of dilute cold matter.

Drawn from 54 colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada, this year’s fellows represent an extraordinarily broad range of research interests, including an astronomer who studies the birth of new planets, a computer scientist who examines how changes in computer network architecture can save energy, an economist who investigates the game-theoretical foundations of cooperation, and a mathematician who uses geometry to model how the brain represents stimuli.

“The scientists and researchers selected for this year’s Sloan Research Fellowships represent the very brightest rising stars of this generation of scholars,” says Paul L. Joskow, president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “The Foundation is proud to be able to support their work at this important stage in their careers.”

Silas Alben, an assistant professor in the School of Mathematics, studies how fluids flow and exert forces on flexible solid bodies. His research is designed to enhance understanding of how fish swim in an effort to guide the design of swimming robots.  He also investigates how thin solid plates can deform to create novel three-dimensional structures.

Shina Tan, an assistant professor in the School of Physics, studies the theory of dilute cold matter, which is millions of times thinner than the air and billions of times colder than an average home freezer. His research may have applications to sensitive detection and precision measurements.

Christopher Peikert, assistant professor in the School of Computer Science, focuses on geometric “lattices” as a new mathematical foundation for cryptography (the science of developing secret codes and the use of those codes in an encryption system). In principle, quantum computers could break much of the cryptography in wide use today, so there is a strong need for alternative schemes. The lattice approach yields very simple schemes that are highly efficient and parallelizable.

Administered and funded by the Sloan Foundation, the fellowships are awarded in close cooperation with the scientific community. Potential fellows must be nominated for recognition by their peers and are subsequently selected by an independent panel of senior scholars.

The $50,000 fellowships are awarded in chemistry, computer science, economics, mathematics, evolutionary and computational molecular biology, neuroscience and physics. In 2012, in recognition of the important work done by Sloan-sponsored researchers working on the Census of Marine Life, the award program will be expanded to include fellowships in ocean sciences.

For a complete list of winners, visit:

Adapted from a release by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is a philanthropic, not-for-profit grant making institution based in New York City. Established in 1934 by Alfred Pritchard Sloan Jr., then-president and chief executive officer of the General Motors Corporation, the Foundation makes grants in support of original research and education in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and economic performance.