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2009 Packard Fellowships in Science and Engineering Awarded


The David and Lucile Packard Foundation has named 16 promising scientific researchers as the 2009 recipients of Packard Fellowships for Science and Engineering. Each Fellow will receive an unrestricted research grant of $875,000 over five years.

Notable recipients in the the computing realm this year are Justin Romberg, from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology; Hong Tang, from the Department of Electrical Engineering, Yale University; Luis von Ahn, from the Department of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University; Andrew Houck, from the Department of Electrical Engineering, Princeton University; and Seth Sullivant, from the Department of Mathematics, North Carolina State University.

The Fellowship Program was established in 1988 and arose out of David Packard's commitment to strengthening university-based science and engineering programs. By supporting unusually creative researchers early in their careers, the Foundation hopes to develop scientific leaders, further the work of promising young scientists and engineers, and support efforts to attract talented graduate students into university research in the United States.

"Each year the Packard Foundation is honored to support a cadre of innovative young scientists and engineers who are attacking some of the most important research questions of our time," said Lynn Orr, Keleen and Carlton Beal Professor at Stanford University, and Chairman of the Packard Fellowship Advisory Panel. "Their research, and the talented students who will work in their research groups, will continue to have a profound impact on the science and engineering community for years to come."

Over the past 21 years, the Packard Fellowship Program has awarded 440 fellowships, totaling $274 million, to faculty members at 52 top national universities. It is among the nation's largest nongovernmental programs designed to seek out and reward the pursuit of scientific discovery with "no strings attached" support. The Packard Fellowship Program funds research in a broad range of disciplines that includes physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, astronomy, computer science, earth science, ocean science, and all branches of engineering.

The 2009 Fellows were nominated by presidents of 50 universities that participate in the Packard Fellowship program. The 99 nominations were reviewed by the Fellowship Advisory Panel, a group of nationally recognized scientists, which then recommended 16 Fellows for approval by the Packard Foundation Board of Trustees.

The complete list of recipients of the 2009 Packard Fellowships in Science and Engineering is as follows:

  • Xin Chen
    Department of Biology, Johns Hopkins University Biological Sciences; to identify the molecular characteristics that are essential for normal stem cell functions that could be targeted to prevent cancer and many other human diseases.
  • Bianxiao Cui
    Department of Chemistry, Stanford University Chemistry; to develop quantitative tools to study the physical process of signal flow between a neuron's cell body and its distant neuronal synapses.
  • Hana El-Samad
    Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco Engineering - Civil or Mechanical; to build a technological platform that probes noise and exploits its patterns for unraveling cellular wiring diagrams.
  • Andrew Houck
    Department of Electrical Engineering, Princeton University Physics; to generate desired quantum states, implementing extreme optical non-linearities inaccessible in conventional materials, to build towards a scalable quantum computer.
  • Peter Huybers
    Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University Geosciences; to develop a more quantitative and complete understanding of Earth's past climate variability and to provide perspective from which to judge the present, and aid in predicting future climate.
  • Kevin Janes
    Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Virginia Engineering - Chemical or Biological; to combine quantitative biochemical techniques, multivariate experiments, and data-driven statistical modeling to examine cellular decisions at the network level.
  • Pablo Jarillo-Herrero
    Department of Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Physics; to explore novel quantum phenomena emerging from the unique geometry and relativistic-like electronic structure of the single-atom thick graphene and the topological insulator Bi2Se3.
  • Holger Mueller
    Department of Physics, University of California, Berkeley Physics; to introduce new tools, such as atom interferometers, to the experimental study of gravity and the standard model of particle physics.
  • Brian Odom
    Department of Physics and Astronomy, Northwestern University Physics; to study and manipulate molecular ions held in radiofrequency traps.
  • Dana Pe'er
    Department of Biological Sciences, Columbia University Biological Sciences; to understand the evolution of molecular networks and how variation in DNA sequence alters the regulatory network and manifests in phenotypic diversity.
  • Joshua Plotkin
    Department of Biology, University of Pennsylvania Ecology, Evolutionary Biology; to develop realistic mathematical models, and to use them to quantify the forces that shape genetic variation in nature.
  • Justin Romberg
    Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology Engineering - Electrical or Computer; to develop theory, algorithms, and hardware for next-generation acquisition systems by exploiting underlying signal structures.
  • Seth Sullivant
    Department of Mathematics, North Carolina State University Mathematics; to introduce tools from algebraic geometry, combinatorics, and symbolic computation to address fundamentally discrete problems in evolutionary biology, causal inference, and disclosure limitation.
  • Dmitri Talapin
    Department of Chemistry, University of Chicago Chemistry; to develop a novel class of materials where components and functionalities can be added, tuned or combined in a predictable manner to provide insight on how colloidal nanoparticles self-assemble into complex single- and multicomponent structures.
  • Hong Tang
    Department of Electrical Engineering, Yale University Engineering - Electrical or Computer; to develop a new class of light force devices and circuits for both fundamental studies and practical applications.
  • Luis von Ahn
    Department of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University Computer/information sciences; to develop a new area of computer science called human computation, which studies how to harness the combined power of humans and computers to solve problems that would be impossible for either to solve alone.

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