Home > News and Events > 2007 News > Green, Jin, and Sarig Receive Sloan Fellowships

Green, Jin, and Sarig Receive Sloan Fellowships

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Michael Green, assistant professor of chemistry; Dezhe Jin, assistant professor of physics; and Omri Sarig, assistant professor of mathematics, have been awarded Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowships in recognition of their work as young scientists engaged in cutting-edge research in their respective fields. These awards are intended to enhance the careers of the very best young faculty members in specified fields of science. Currently, a total of 116 fellowships are awarded annually in seven fields: chemistry, computational and evolutionary molecular biology, computer science, economics, mathematics, neuroscience, and physics.

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Michael Green's research involves an unusual group of enzymes known as thiolate-ligated heme proteins. These enzymes catalyze the insertion of an oxygen atom into a variety of organic substances and play critical roles in a number of important physiological processes, including the metabolism of pharmaceuticals, the transmission of signals between neurons, the control of blood pressure, and the immune system's response against tumor cells.

Green, who is interested in understanding the role of the thiolate group in reaction mechanisms, uses theoretical calculations and spectroscopy to study highly reactive, short-lived intermediate compounds. "Knowledge gained from these investigations could be used to guide protein or catalyst design for industrial synthesis of organic chemicals," he says. "If you could apply this chemistry directly to petroleum alkanes-the main components of crude oil-you could make a number of oxygen-containing compounds directly." Because the proteins are involved in the metabolism of many pharmaceuticals, better understanding of their chemistry also may aid the design of targeted drugs.

Green received a Beckman Young Investigator Award from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation in 2005. Prior to joining the Penn State faculty in July 2002, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology from 1998 to 2002. He earned bachelor's degrees in chemistry and physics at Texas A&M University in 1992, and master's and doctoral degrees in chemistry at the University of Chicago in 1994 and 1998, respectively.

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Dezhe Jin's research focuses on theoretical analysis of the biophysical properties of neural networks and their applications to neurobiological functions. The goal of this research is to construct biologically detailed computational models of neurobiological functions guided by theoretical studies of neural networks. Jin's research includes computational models of neurobiological functions, such as song generation and recognition in songbirds, as important animal models for studying speech generation and recognition; motor control in basal ganglia; recognition of complex olfaction patterns as observed in insects and mammals; and processing of visual information, including the formation of feature maps in the visual cortex.

Jin explains, "Much of the previous work on neural networks was focused on rate encoding. These models ignore how neurons interact with individual spikes or pulses-the difference between the electrical potentials inside and outside the cell-that transmit signals between neurons." He continues, "Our research is focused on more biologically realistic spiking models that preserve the pulse-coupled nature of neural interactions. When compared to rate models, these spiking models have richer and faster dynamics that can be exploited for analyzing information processing in the brain."

Jin is a member of the American Physical Society, the Society for Neuroscience, and the scientific-research society Sigma-Xi. He is a referee for Physical Review Letters, Physical Review E, Physics of Plasmas, Physics of Fluids, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) journal Transactions on Neural Networks.

Prior to joining Penn State during the fall semester of 2004, Jin was a research associate at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute from 2001 to 2004 and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 2000 to 2004. He was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California in San Diego in 1999 and 2000, and was an assistant lecturer at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, from 1990 to 1992. Jin received his bachelor's and master's degrees in physics from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, in 1990 and 1994, respectively, and received his doctoral degree in physics from the University of California in San Diego in 1999.

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Omri Sarig's research is focused on such mathematical topics as probability theory, ergodic theory, and dynamical systems. He is interested particularly in mechanisms that make deterministic processes seem "random" or "unpredictable."

His research achievements have been recognized with a Wolf Foundation Gilboa award in 2000, with the Haim Nessyaho prize for the best Israeli doctoral dissertation in mathematics for the year 2001, and with a three-year-long National Science Foundation award in 2004. He also has been recognized with Letters of Commendation for Excellence in Teaching from Tel-Aviv University in Israel in 2000 and from Warwick University in the United Kingdom in 2003.

Prior to joining Penn State during the fall semester of 2003, Sarig was a lecturer at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom from 2000 to 2003 and a teaching assistant at Tel Aviv University in Israel from 1999 to 2000. He also has held visiting positions at the Max-Planck Institute for Mathematics in Germany, and at the Institute of Advanced Scientific Studies (IHES ) and the Institut Henri Poincaré in France.

Sarig completed his education at Tel Aviv University in Israel, earning a bachelor's degree summa cum laude in 1994, a master's degree summa cum laude in 1997, and a doctoral degree with distinction in 2001.

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