Sloan Foundation Awards fellowships to two biomedical engineering faculty

By John Toon | Feb. 19, 2019

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(l-r) Chethan Pandarinath and Eva Dyer

Two faculty members from the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University have been awarded research fellowships from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The fellowships, awarded yearly since 1955, honor early-career scholars whose achievements mark them as among the most promising researchers in their fields.

In receiving their fellowships, Eva Dyer and Chethan Pandarinath, assistant professors in the Coulter Department, are ranked among “the best young scientists working today,” according to Adam F. Falk, president of the Sloan Foundation.

“Sloan Fellows stand out for their creativity, for their hard work, for the importance of the issues they tackle and the energy and innovation with which they tackle them,” Falk says. “To be a Sloan Fellow is to be in the vanguard of 21st-century science.”

Past Sloan Research Fellows include many towering figures in the history of science, including physicists Richard Feynman and Murray Gell-Mann, and game theorist John Nash. Forty-seven fellows have received a Nobel Prize in their respective field, 17 have won the Fields Medal in mathematics, 69 have received the National Medal of Science and 18 have won the John Bates Clark Medal in economics, including every winner since 2007. 

“It is truly remarkable for one department to have two Sloan Research Fellowship winners in the same year,” says Susan Margulies, Coulter Department Chair. “Last year, Bilal Haider from BME won a Sloan Fellowship, and Annabelle Singer was awarded a Packard Fellowship. Three Sloan awards and a Packard Fellowship in just two years are evidence of the brilliance and thought leadership of our early-stage neuro-engineering faculty.” 

Dyer’s research interests lie at the intersection of machine learning, optimization and neuroscience. Her lab develops computational methods for discovering principles that govern the organization and structure of the brain, as well as methods for integrating multi-modal datasets to reveal the link between neural structure and function.

Pandarinath, who is also an assistant professor in Emory’s Department of Neurosurgery as well as the Emory Neuromodulation Technology Innovation Center, leads the Emory and Georgia Tech Systems Neural Engineering Lab. He’s part of an interdisciplinary team at Emory and Georgia Tech using sophisticated methods of artificial intelligence and machine learning to better understand how large networks of neurons in the brain encode information and control behavior. Pandarinath’s team hopes to design new brain-machine interface technologies to help restore movement to people who are paralyzed, including those affected by spinal cord injury and stroke, and by Parkinson’s disease and ALS. 

Valued not only for their prestige, Sloan Research Fellowships are a highly flexible source of research support. Funds may be spent in any way a fellow deems will best advance his or her work. Drawn this year from 57 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, the 2019 Sloan Research Fellows represent a diverse array of research interests.

Open to scholars in eight scientific and technical fields — chemistry, computer science, economics, mathematics, computational and evolutionary molecular biology, neuroscience, ocean sciences and physics — the Sloan Research Fellowships are awarded in close coordination with the scientific community. Candidates must be nominated by their fellow scientists, and winning fellows are selected by independent panels of senior scholars on the basis of a candidate’s research accomplishments, creativity and potential to become a leader in his or her field. Winners receive a two-year, $70,000 fellowship to further their research. 

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 CEO of the General Motors Corporation, the Foundation makes grants in support of original research and education in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and economics.