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Three from Eberly College of Science awarded Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowships

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21 February 2017

Three faculty members from the Eberly College of Science have been honored with Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowships in recognition of their research accomplishments. The new Sloan Fellows are: Michael DeGiorgio, assistant professor of biology; Kin Fai Mak, assistant professor of physics; and Kohta Murase, assistant professor of physics and of astronomy and astrophysics.

The Sloan Foundation states that "the fellowships honor early-career scientists and scholars whose achievements and potential identify them as rising stars, the next generation of scientific leaders." Candidates for Sloan Research Fellowships are nominated by fellow scientists and the Fellows are selected by a panel of senior scholars for their "independent research accomplishments, creativity, and potential to become a leader in his or her field."

Michael DeGiorgio

Michael DeGiorgioDeGiorgio received the Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship in biology. His research focuses on the development of mathematical models and statistical methods for understanding evolutionary history from patterns in genetic data. He works on both theoretical and applied problems in statistical population genetics, human evolutionary genomics, and phylogenetics. Within these research areas, DeGiorgio is specifically interested in constructing mathematical models of human evolutionary history, designing statistics to search for genomic regions under natural selection, and developing and evaluating computational methods for estimating species relationships using data from multiple regions of the genome.

DeGiorgio has published over 30 peer-reviewed articles, appearing in journals such as Molecular Biology and Evolution, Systematic Biology, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Genetics, and Nature Communications. He has presented invited lectures in the United States, England, and Denmark, and has served as a referee for over 25 journals.

Before joining Penn State, DeGiorgio was a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. He earned a bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and computer science at the University of Central Florida in 2006, and master’s and doctoral degrees in bioinformatics at the University of Michigan in 2008 and 2011, respectively.

Kin Fai Mak

Kin Fai MakMak received the Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship in physics. His research combines techniques from nanoscale electronics and from optics to study the behavior of electrons in two-dimensional materials. His research is focused on understanding unusual electronic phenomena that occur when electrons are confined in crystals that are only a few atoms thick. He is also interested in the electronic properties of heterostructures formed from these thin nanoscale materials. Examples of these phenomena that Mak studies include the emergence of unconventional superconductivity, topological transport, and the formation of high-density exciton gas.

In 2016, Mak was awarded a Packard Fellowship in Science and Engineering by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and a Young Investigators Research Program grant by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. In 2015, he was selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science to receive funding for his research as part of the DOE's Early Career Research Program. In 2013, he received the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) Young Scientist Prize in Quantum Electronics. In 2012, Mak was honored with the Michelson Postdoctoral Prize Lectureship from Case Western Reserve University. Mak's research has been published in such journals as Nature, Science, and Physical Review Letters.

Before joining Penn State in 2014, Mak was a Kavli Fellow in physics at Cornell University from 2012 to 2014 and a postdoctoral fellow at the Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center at Columbia University from 2010 to 2012. He earned a bachelor's degree in physics and mathematics at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in 2005 and a doctoral degree in physics at Columbia University in 2010.

Kohta Murase

Kohta MuraseMurase received the Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship in physics. He focuses his research on theoretical astroparticle physics and interdisciplinary areas among astrophysics, particle physics, and nuclear physics. His particular interest lies in the physics and astrophysics related to cosmic rays, the subatomic particles known as neutrinos, and the properties of dark matter. Using neutrinos, gamma rays, charged particles (protons, nuclei, and electrons), and gravitational waves as cosmic messengers, he aims to reveal non-thermal aspects of the Universe and solve the mysteries of extremely energetic cosmic particles. With the multi-messenger approach combining these four messengers, he also aims to unveil the extreme astrophysical phenomena of black holes and neutron stars, such as gamma-ray bursts, supernovae, and active galactic nuclei. Regarding the Universe as a natural laboratory, he also attempts to use astroparticles as probes of elementary particle properties and theories beyond the Standard Model that are difficult to test with human-made experiments.

Murase’s previous awards and honors include the 2015 Young Scientist Award of the Physical Society of Japan, awarded jointly with the 2015 Incentive Award of Cosmic Ray Physics from the Cosmic Ray Researchers Congress of Japan, and the 2014 Young Scientist Award of the Astronomical Society of Japan.

Before joining the faculty at Penn State, Murase was a member and Hubble Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton from 2012 to 2015. He was a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Center for Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics Senior Fellow at the Ohio State University from 2010 to 2012.  He earned a doctoral degree in physics in 2010 and a master's degree in physics in 2007 at Kyoto University, and a bachelor's degree in physics at the University of Tokyo in 2005.

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