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Four NYU Faculty Win Sloan Foundation Research Fellowships

Four NYU faculty have been awarded fellowships from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Four NYU Faculty Win Sloan Foundation Research Fellowships

Four New York University faculty have been awarded fellowships from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation: Afonso Bandeira, Joan Bruna Estrach, and Miranda Holmes-Cerfon, assistant professors in the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, and Tianning Diao, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry.

The fellowships are given to early-career scientists and scholars “whose achievements mark them as among the very best scientific minds working today,” the Sloan Foundation said in announcing this year’s 126 fellows.

A full list of the 2018 Fellows is available at the Sloan Foundation website:

“The Sloan Research Fellows represent the very best science has to offer,” says Sloan President Adam Falk. “The brightest minds, tackling the hardest problems, and succeeding brilliantly—Fellows are quite literally the future of 21st century science.”

Bandeira seeks a deeper understanding of various processes for extracting information from data, recognizing the computational challenges of deciphering large datasets. His work probes the limits of statistical inference with computational constraints. Recently, he has been focusing on problems with strong algebraic structure, such as reconstructing a molecule from hundreds of thousands to millions of noisy images in cryo-electron microscopy—a technique that allows scientists to see the structures and movements of biomolecules.

Bruna Estrach’s research explores the interplay among mathematics, statistics, and machine learning, and focuses on advancing the mathematical foundations of deep learning. For example, he has studied convolutional neural networks—the prevalent machine-learning model in computer vision, using tools from harmonic analysis. His newer work seeks to apply these insights to other fields, such as particle physics and quantum chemistry.

Diao develops sustainable synthetic methods to prepare pharmaceutical and chemical products from small molecule chemical feedstocks. In particular, she prepares catalysts from transition metals, such as nickel, in order to control the reactivity and selectivity of transformations.

Holmes-Cerfon develops mathematical tools to study mesoscale materials--those whose components are much bigger than atoms but much smaller than we are. She is interested in how systems assemble spontaneously in the presence of thermal fluctuations (randomness, or noise) and in using this understanding to design systems to efficiently assemble into a desired structure. Her work draws on statistical mechanics, stochastic analysis, and computational geometry to build computational and theoretical tools that capture the unique properties of systems at these intermediate scales. 

Since the beginning of the program in 1955, 45 fellows have received a Nobel Prize in their respective fields, 16 have won the Fields Medal in mathematics, 69 have received the National Medal of Science, and 17 have won the John Bates Clark Medal in economics, including every winner since 2007. Past Sloan Research Fellows include physicists Richard Feynman and Murray Gell-Mann, and game theorist John Nash.

Fellows receive $65,000, over a two-year period, to further their research.


Founded in 1831, NYU is one of the world’s foremost research universities and is a member of the selective Association of American Universities. NYU has degree-granting university campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai; has eleven other global academic sites, including London, Paris, Florence, Tel Aviv, Buenos Aires, and Accra; and both sends more students to study abroad and educates more international students than any other U.S. college or university. Through its numerous schools and colleges, NYU is a leader in conducting research and providing education in the arts and sciences, engineering, law, medicine, business, dentistry, education, nursing, the cinematic and performing arts, music and studio arts, public administration, social work, and professional studies, among other areas.

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