Two New York University faculty have been awarded fellowships from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation: Roozbeh Kiani, an assistant professor at NYU’s Center for Neural Science, and Nicholas Stavropoulos, an assistant professor of neuroscience and physiology at NYU Langone Medical Center and its Neuroscience Institute.
The fellowships are given to early-career scientists and scholars “whose achievements and potential identify them as rising stars—the next generation of scientific leaders,” the Sloan Foundation said in announcing this year’s fellows.
“For more than half a century, the Sloan Foundation has been proud to honor the best young scientific minds and support them during a crucial phase of their careers when early funding and recognition can really make a difference,” said Paul L. Joskow, president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “These researchers are pushing the boundaries of scientific knowledge in unprecedented ways.”
Kiani’s research focuses on the neuroscience behind the decision-making process, which researchers believe is dependent on interaction of several cortical and subcortical areas that, collectively, represent sensory information, retrieve relevant memories, and plan and execute desired actions. Kiani aims to better understand the underlying neural mechanisms that are fundamental to this process—breakthroughs that could lead to new medical interventions for patients suffering from mental and cognitive disorders. Kiani holds a Ph.D. from the University of Washington and an M.D. from Iran’s Shaheed Beheshti University.
Stavropoulos studies the genes, molecular pathways, and brain circuits that control sleep. In experiments in fruit flies—who fall asleep each night and who are evolutionary cousins of humans— Stavropoulos and his team have identified genes shared between flies and humans that influence how long and how deeply the animals sleep. He says the goal of his research, which uses sophisticated genetic techniques to probe the function of these shared genes in the fly brain, is to gain insight into the mechanisms that control human sleep and to improve the understanding and treatment of sleep disorders. Stavropoulos earned his Ph.D. in genetics from Harvard Medical School.
Past Sloan Research Fellows have gone on to notable careers and include such intellectual luminaries as physicist Richard Feynman and game theorist John Nash. Since the beginning of the program in 1955, 42 fellows have received a Nobel Prize in their respective field, 16 have won the Fields Medal in mathematics, 13 have won the John Bates Clark Medal in economics, and 63 have received the National Medal of Science.
Fellows receive $50,000, over a two-year period, to further their research.
Awarded in eight scientific and technical fields—chemistry, computer science, economics, mathematics, evolutionary and computational molecular biology, neuroscience, ocean sciences, and physics—the Sloan Research Fellowships are awarded through cooperation with the scientific community. Candidates must be nominated by their fellow scientists, and winning fellows are selected by an independent panel of senior scholars on the basis of a candidate’s independent research accomplishments, creativity, and potential to become a leader in his or her field.