The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has awarded two Penn professors the 2022 Sloan Research Fellowship, which recognizes early-career scientists and scholars for novel research in scientific disciplines.
Engineering professor Deep Jariwala and Wharton and Engineering professor Yuxin Chen are among the 118 recipients of the two-year fellowship, which awards $75,000 to its winners to fund their research. It honors researchers with the potential to revolutionize scientific fields including chemistry, computer science, mathematics, neuroscience, and physics.
To be eligible for the fellowship, candidates must be nominated by their peers. An independent panel of scholars selects the winners based on their research, creativity, and potential as scientific leaders.
Chen is an associate professor in the Department of Statistics and Data Science at Wharton and received the award for his research in mathematics.
“It’s a great honor for me because the Sloan Foundation is a way to recognize young researchers in fundamental fields who can potentially impact the world,” Chen said.
Chen said that his research explores the intersection of statistics, mathematical optimization, and machine learning. These areas have traditionally been examined separately, he added, but he seeks to integrate them and use data to enhance machine learning's accuracy.
“The great thing about the Sloan research funding is that it is very flexible, so you can use it to carry out a more bold, risky idea. I’m going to use it to develop theory for emerging areas, one of which is reinforcement learning,” Chen said.
Jariwala, who received the award in chemistry, is an assistant professor in Penn’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Systems Engineering.
“The Sloan Research Fellowship is special to me because both of my Ph.D. advisors also won the Sloan Fellowship in chemistry, so it was a proud moment for me and for them," he said.
Jariwala, the leader of Penn’s Device Research and Engineering Laboratory, said that he is interested in increasing energy efficiency through new materials.
“If we continue the rate at which we are consuming power, by 2040, all the electricity we can produce will only be used for computation devices, not to mention transport, electricity, or anything else. There is no sustainable path forward unless we increase computational efficiency,” Jariwala said.
Jariwala plans to use the funding to explore a new set of materials that may play a role in light-driven chemical reactions.
“I want to start producing fuels from sunlight directly. It would be transformative to solving our energy needs as a society,” Jariwala said.
Last year, the Sloan Research Fellowship was awarded to five Penn faculty members.