Emory professors win National Science Foundation awards for young faculty

Emory Report | May 23, 2016

Three Emory professors are among the 160 young trailblazers recently honored by the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER). The five-year grants support junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholar and the integration of education and research.

For Emory College of Arts and Sciences, mathematician David Zureick-Brown and computer scientist Ymir Vigfusson are the first faculty in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science to win the prestigious award.

“This is a great recognition for our faculty and an indication of the breadth and depth of the groundbreaking work being done in the department,” says Vaidy Sunderam, chair of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science. “This is validation that we have absolutely brilliant and innovative researchers at Emory College."

Zureick-Brown’s award of $416,997 over the term will seek to find or describe all integer solutions of polynomial equations that arise in mathematics, cryptography and the physical sciences, a problem that has been studied for centuries. 

Vigfusson, whose award will total $552,532 over the term, is working to improve computer systems’ efficiency and performance via analysis of workload data. Successful outcomes would endow system caches with greater intelligence and optimize server performance.

Alexa Mattheyses, an assistant professor of cell biology in the Emory University School of Medicine, also won an NSF CAREER award this year, for work imaging cellular dynamics. Mattheyses will use her award of $872,803 over the term to examine how cells communicate with each other and the outside environment.

Previous NSF early career winners

These professors join the ranks of other outstanding Emory faculty who have won NSF CAREER awards in recent years.

Most recently, assistant physics professor Justin Burton and assistant chemistry professor Christopher Scarborough won the award in 2015.

This is not the first time a single department has seen two rising stars win in the same year. Biochemist Emily Weinert and chemist Khalid Salaita, both assistant professors in the Department of Chemistry, won in 2014.

Four Emory professors won CAREER Awards in 2012: Nicole Gerardo, an associate professor in the Department of Biology; Wilbur Lam, an assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University and in the Division of Hematology/Oncology within Emory's Department of Pediatrics; Connie Roth, an associate professor in the Department of Physics; and Susanna Widicus Weaver, an associate professor in the Chemistry Department.

Emory's first Department of Energy early career award

In addition to the NSF CAREER awards, the Department of Chemistry’s Francesco Evangelista became the first Emory faculty member to win an award from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Early Career Research Program.

Evangelista, an assistant professor of chemistry, will receive $750,000 over five years for his investigations of advanced electronic structure theories for strongly correlated ground and excited states. The methods and software developed in his research will provide new computational tools for studying problems relevant to basic energy science, including combustion processes, transition metal catalysts for energy conversion and the photochemistry of multi-electron excited states.

Evangelista also received a 2016 Sloan Research Fellowship of $55,000 from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which honors “the best-of-the-best among young scientists.”