Meet the 2014 Packard Fellows

The David and Lucile Packard Foundation has named 18 of the nation’s most innovative early-career scientists and engineers as recipients of the 2014 Packard Fellowships for Science and Engineering. Each Fellow will receive a grant of $875,000 over five years to pursue their research.

The recipients of the 2014 Packard Fellowships are:

Trisha Andrew
Department of Chemistry, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Discipline: Materials Science, Nanotechnology
Andrew’s research focuses on improving the performance of existing electronics and enabling revolutionary data and energy storage. She also focuses on telecommunications technology. Through her work, she strives to produce electronic devices with dramatically decreased power consumption by using organic magnets that are able to achieve unmatched control over processing conditions, device dimension and the spin of charge carriers.

Jacob Bean
Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of Chicago
Discipline: Astronomy, Astrophysics, Cosmology
By studying the atmospheres of planets beyond our solar system, also known as an “exoplanets,” Bean’s goal is to gain a deeper understanding of planetary formation, physics, chemistry and ultimately, habitability. Using ground and space-based telescopes, Bean is interested in detecting and characterizing these worlds and eventually identifying other Earth-like planets.

James Cahoon
Department of Chemistry, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Discipline: Materials Science, Nanotechnology
Semiconductors are the basis for many modern technologies. Cahoon focuses on designing materials that can open the door to new technologies based on semiconductor nanomaterials. Using rational-design principles combined with chemical fabrication methods, Cahoon and his research group will create semiconductor wires with tunable electrical, optical and thermal properties through precise control of size, shape and composition.

Ivan Corwin
Department of Mathematics, Columbia University
Discipline: Mathematics
Corwin works to unify algebraic structures within mathematics, build bridges between these structures and domains of physics, and discover universal phenomena within these domains. He has uncovered universal distributions (modern day parallels of the bell curve) in models of interface growth, traffic flow, mass transport, turbulence and shock-fronts.

James Fraser
Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, University of California, San Francisco
Discipline: Biochemistry
Proteins fluctuate between different structures as they catalyze chemical reactions, but it is often difficult to resolve all but the most common structures. Enabled by bright new X-ray sources, the Fraser lab wants to understand how these different structures can be engineered and how they are altered in disease.

Liang Fu
Department of Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Discipline: Physics
Fu develops predictive theory to search for new quantum phases of matter in real materials and explore their novel properties. He seeks to understand collective behaviors of solids using concepts and techniques from theoretical physics, quantum chemistry and quantum information science. His work on topological quantum materials has potential applications in quantum computing and nanoelectronics.

Chris Harrison
Human-Computer Interaction Institute, Carnegie Mellon University
Discipline: Computer/Information Sciences
Harrison creates new interface technologies that foster powerful and natural interactions between humans and computers. He is particularly determined to better unlock the incredible potential of mobile and worn computing, empowering people to interact with their “small devices in big ways.”

Lena Kourkoutis
School of Applied and Engineering Physics, Cornell University
Discipline: Physics
New functionalities, with fundamental and technological implications, can emerge at the interface between two materials. The Kourkoutis Electron Microscopy Group develops techniques to understand such phenomena in complex oxides, a class of materials that exhibits a rich variety of functional properties including some that are unattainable in conventional semiconductors.

Vedran Lekic
Department of Geology, University of Maryland, College Park
Discipline: Geosciences
Lekic works on imaging the Earth’s deep interior to reveal structures and processes responsible for the break-up of continents, the creation of oceanic islands, and the pattern of circulation driving plate tectonics. He does this by devising improved ways of analyzing ground vibration recordings gathered by massive arrays of seismometers.

Brice Ménard
Department of Physics and Astronomy, John Hopkins University
Discipline: Astronomy, Astrophysics, Cosmology
Ménard explores the Universe using the power of statistical analyses applied to large astronomical datasets. He pioneers techniques to uncover new astrophysical phenomena from observations of the sky across the entire electromagnetic spectrum. His interests range from stars in the Milky Way to distant galaxies across the Universe.

Karin Öberg
Department of Astronomy, Harvard University
Discipline: Astronomy, Astrophysics, Cosmology
Öberg is an astrochemist. She combines ice experiments and radio astronomy to explore the chemistry present during planet formation. This chemistry regulates the compositions and habitability of nascent planets, and is thus key to our understanding of the origins of life.

Sabine Petry
Department of Molecular Biology, Princeton University
Discipline: Biochemistry
Petry researches how the cytoskeleton gives cells their shape, positions organelles, moves materials and divides cells. She uses biochemical and engineering approaches to uncover the mechanisms that generate their architecture. Her research reveals how cellular structures are built and how malfunctions occur, which lie at the heart of many diseases involving cell proliferation and cancer.

Daniel Rabosky
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan
Discipline: Ecology, Evolutionary Biology
Rabosky studies the evolutionary processes of species formation and extinction to understand why biological diversity varies so dramatically over space and time. His work helps explain why some groups of animals and plants have undergone spectacular evolutionary explosions and why many other groups have so few species.

Santiago Ramirez
Department of Evolution and Ecology, University of California, Davis
Discipline: Ecology, Evolutionary Biology
Evolutionary biologists have long recognized the central role that species interactions play in the origin and maintenance of biological diversity. However, the ecological conditions and the genetic mechanisms whereby lineages coevolve and adapt to one another remain poorly understood. Ramirez’s research integrates genetic, ecological and physiological approaches to investigate the evolutionary origin and the ecological function of adaptations that facilitate mutualistic associations between bee pollinators and plants.

Agnel Sfeir
Skirball Institute, New York University
Discipline: Biological Sciences
Mitochondria are the ATP-generating powerhouses of our cells, carrying their own circular genome. Maintaining the integrity of the mitochondrial DNA is necessary for optimal cellular function and for protection against several diseases. Sfeir’s goal is to understand the basis of incurred mitochondrial DNA aberrations and to manipulate the genome to revert such errors.

Alison Sweeney
Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Pennsylvania
Discipline: Physics
Squids, octopuses and clams build an array of living optical devices of astounding sophistication, such as reflective camouflage, graded index lenses, solar radiance distributors, and wavelength-specific light guides. Soft matter physics has very recently produced theoretical insights that may inform our understanding of the evolution of these structures. Sweeney plans to use both evolutionary biology and these new theoretical ideas to help explain their emergence.

Andrew Thompson
Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology
Discipline: Geosciences
Thompson studies ocean turbulence and its impact on Earth’s climate through the use of both observations from autonomous robotic platforms and numerical models. His research focuses on understanding oceanic heat transport, physical-biological controls on ecosystem dynamics and the cycling of carbon and oxygen in the upper ocean.

Laura Waller
Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, University of California, Berkeley
Discipline: Electrical or Computer Engineering
Waller’s research develops new methods of computational imaging, where optical systems and image processing algorithms are designed simultaneously. Specifically, she focuses on optical and X-ray microscopy for biological and metrological applications. Waller and her research group have designed a new microscope enabling improved resolution, aberration removal, and 3D and phase imaging, all in post-processing.

More about the Packard Fellowships in Science and Engineering:

The Packard Foundation established the Fellowships program in 1988 to provide early-career scientists with flexible funding and the freedom to take risks and explore new frontiers in their fields. Each year, the Foundation invites 50 universities to nominate two faculty members for consideration. The Packard Fellowships Advisory Panel, a group of 12 internationally-recognized scientists and engineers, evaluates the nominations and recommends Fellows for approval by the Packard Foundation Board of Trustees.

The Fellowships program was inspired by David Packard’s commitment to strengthen university-based science and engineering programs in the United States, recognizing that the success of the Hewlett-Packard Company, which he cofounded, was derived in large measure from research and development in university laboratories.

Packard Fellows must be faculty members who are eligible to serve as principal investigators on research in the natural and physical sciences or engineering, and must be within the first three years of their faculty careers. Disciplines that are considered include physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, astronomy, computer science, earth science, ocean science and all branches of engineering.

Since 1988, the Foundation has awarded $346 million to support 523 scientists and engineers from 52 top national universities. The Packard Fellowships are among the nation’s largest nongovernmental fellowships, designed to allow maximum flexibility in how the funding is used. Packard Fellows have gone on to achieve significant accomplishments, receiving additional awards and honors that include the Nobel Prize in Physics, the Fields Medal, the Alan T. Waterman Award, MacArthur Fellowships and elections to the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine.