Nine professors win NSF early-career awards

Researchers studying statistics applications in systems biology, next-generation wireless technology and the methods by which vines climb are among the nine Cornell faculty members who recently received National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Awards.

Three College of Arts and Sciences researchers are among this year's recipients from Cornell.

Over the next three to five years, each will receive approximately $400,000 to $600,000 from the program, which supports early-career faculty “who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization,” according to the NSF. Each funded project must include an educational component.

The Arts and Sciences recipients (assistant professors unless noted):

Debanjan Chowdhury, physics, College of Arts and Sciences (A&S), studies “quantum matter,” where electrons self-organize into cooperative states of matter governed by the laws of quantum mechanics. Chowdhury uses techniques from quantum field theory to uncover the mysterious microscopic mechanisms leading to exotic properties such as high-temperature superconductivity and new forms of magnetism. This research will be focused on a class of metals that are the “parent” states for numerous high-temperature superconductors but do not fit into our understanding of conventional metallic behavior. Chowdhury and his group will develop new theoretical methods for studying these electronic phases. The educational component will include a new podcast series on quantum materials research, workshops for high school science teachers, and undergraduate and graduate student mentoring.

Erin Stache, chemistry and chemical biology (A&S), explores advanced methods in catalysis to develop new polymerization strategies to access polymers with unique material properties. Stache’s lab is developing degradable polymers from monomers that are building blocks commonly found in commodity plastics. Polymerization processes will be designed to incorporate degradable functionality along the main polymer backbone. From a sustainability perspective, the design principles associated with this project have the potential to provide a promising and viable solution to the current challenges related to the widespread usage of non-degradable commodity plastics. Training workshops will be developed to encourage the public to make an impact in their households and communities.

Xin Zhou, associate professor, mathematics (A&S), studies differential geometry and calculus of variations, including minimal, constant mean curvature (CMC) and prescribed mean curvature (PMC) surfaces, which are mathematical models of soap films, soap bubbles and capillary surfaces. Geometric variational theory (GVT) is the major method for proving the existence of these types of surfaces; with this award, Zhou will conduct research projects on the existence of minimal, CMC and PMC surfaces by further advancing GVT. The educational component will include developing new curricula for graduate research topic courses, recruiting and mentoring Ph.D. students and postdocs, and organizing an upstate New York workshop for scholars and students in geometry and analysis, to encourage research and collaboration.

Read the full story in the Cornell Chronicle.

More News from A&S

Red buds on black branches in the foreground with a clock tower in the distance