Skip to main content

Li and Roiban Receive Sloan Foundation Fellowships

19 May 2008

Xiantao Li, assistant professor of mathematics, and Radu Roiban, assistant professor of physics, 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. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation awards 118 fellowships annually to faculty in the United States and Canada who are in the early stages of their research careers and who have exceptional promise to contribute to the advancement of knowledge in chemistry, computational and evolutionary molecular biology, computer science, economics, mathematics, neuroscience, and physics.

Xiantao Li.

Li's research involves multiscale modeling of materials. By building mathematical models of materials and interfaces, he is able to simulate the properties of the materials at different scales. These simulations allow him to define the properties of materials based on microscopic models and to predict how the properties will change under different conditions. Li also models defects in materials, such as cracks, in order to project how these defects can propagate within the material and how they affect the material's overall behavior.

Li earned his bachelor's degree at Peking University in Beijing, China in 1998 and his doctoral degree at the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 2002. He did postdoctoral work at Princeton University and the Institute for Mathematics and its Applications in Minneapolis, Minnesota prior to joining the Penn State Department of Mathematics in 2005.

Radu Roiban.

Roiban studies string theory and quantum field theory. He describes string theory as the only framework that unifies all known interactions in a quantum-mechanically-consistent way. Quantum field theory is used to describe the interactions of point-like elementary particles at accessible energies in the absence of gravity. Roiban's research includes developing novel techniques to study the implications of each theory in relation to the other. The work may one day lead to better understanding of phenomena ranging from particle physics to quantum gravity to cosmological observations and conjectures about the history of the universe.

"We live in a time in which advances in physics and mathematics have opened up the unprecedented opportunity of understanding our universe from first principles," said Roiban. "I am very excited to be part of this adventure."

In addition to publishing more than 50 papers on his research, Roiban has presented his work in many invited talks throughout the United States and Europe. He also has served as a referee for the scientific journals Nuclear Physics B, Physical Review D, Journal of High Energy Physics, Physical Review Letters, Advances in Theoretical and Mathematical Physics, and Mathematical Reviews.

Prior to joining the Penn State faculty in September 2005, Roiban was a member of the research staff at Princeton University from 2004 to 2005. He was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California at Santa Barbara from 2001 to 2004. From 1997 to 2001, he was a graduate assistant and teaching assistant at the C.N. Yang Institute for Theoretical Physics at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where he earned a doctoral degree in physics in 2001. Roiban studied physics at the University of Bucharest in Romania and earned a master's degree in physics at the University of Quebec in Canada in 1997.

The Sloan Research Fellowship Program was founded in 1955 and is one of the oldest fellowship programs in the nation. Sloan Fellows receive highly unrestricted grants in support of their research for a two-year period, with which they are free to pursue any research topic that is of interest to them. According to the foundation, this flexibility often is of great value to young scientists who are at a pivotal stage in establishing an independent research program. The Sloan Research Program has distributed more than $113 million to an estimated 4,200 researchers. Selection procedures for the Sloan Research Fellowships are designed to identify those who show the most outstanding promise for making fundamental contributions to new knowledge. Twenty-eight former Sloan Fellows have received Nobel prizes.