Five University of Chicago scientists awarded prestigious Sloan Fellowships

Early-career scholars honored for innovative research in economics, statistics, sciences

Five University of Chicago scholars have earned prestigious Sloan Research Fellowships, which recognize early-career scholars’ potential to make substantial contributions to their fields.

Awarded since 1955 to the brightest young scientists across the United States and Canada, the two-year Sloan Fellowships are one of the most competitive and prestigious awards available to early-career researchers. This year’s winners, announced Feb. 15, will receive two-year fellowships in the amount of $75,000 to further their innovative research.

Since the first Sloan Research Fellowships were awarded in 1955, 204 scientists from the University of Chicago have received a Sloan Research Fellowship (including this year’s winners).

Peter Ganong is an assistant professor at the Harris School of Public Policy, and an economist who studies the effect of public policies on people facing difficult financial circumstances.

In his research on the foreclosure crisis, he found that most borrowers defaulted due to insufficient liquidity and that many foreclosures could have been averted through liquidity-focused modifications to mortgages. He also has found that unemployment benefits play a crucial role in sustaining the consumption of unemployed workers. In ongoing work, he is studying the effects of racial wealth inequality and the effects of high liquidity on the U.S. economy.

Ganong is a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He received his B.A. and Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University. He has spent two years in public service: one at the White House Council of Economic Advisers and one at the City of Boston’s Citywide Analytics Team.

He has taught at the University of Chicago since 2017 and was a visiting assistant professor at MIT during the fall of 2021.

Chao Gao is an assistant professor in the Department of Statistics.

Gao’s research areas are spread across nonparametric and high-dimensional statistics, network analysis, Bayes theory and robust statistics. A common theme of his research is the investigation of both fundamental limits and efficient computational strategies in complex statistical estimation settings. His recent work unveils the intricate interaction between correlation and sparsity.

Gao has received the 2021 IMS Tweedie Award and the National Science Foundation Career Award in 2019. He serves as associate editor for Bernoulli and for Electronic Journal of Statistics.

Prior to joining UChicago, Gao earned a master’s and a Ph.D. from Yale University, both in statistics.

Mark Levin is an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry.

His lab focuses on the development of synthetic methods, reagents and catalytic principles that enable precision synthesis. His research provides tools for chemists in many applied fields to discover new functional molecules more rapidly, accelerating the discovery of medicines, agricultural agents, materials, and diagnostics.

Levin plans to use the fellowship to continue his research program focused on the development of chemical reactions which can modify molecular skeletons at the single atom level.

His previous awards include the Thieme Chemistry Journal Award, Packard Foundation Fellowship, and Cancer Research Foundation Young Investigator Award. Levin received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. After a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University, Levin joined the University of Chicago in 2019.

Pedro Lopes is an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science.

Lopes designs, builds and studies interactive devices that “borrow” parts of the user’s body to influence their motion and perception. These wearable technologies use electrical muscle stimulation to actuate movement or simulate touch feedback, or engage with the user’s sense of smell, temperature and other stimuli to create more realistic virtual environments.

With his Human-Computer Integration Lab, Lopes has invented devices that help users operate an unfamiliar tool, draw a complicated data plot, or take a photograph of a fast-moving object. With UChicago CS students and collaborators, Lopes has also invented devices for making virtual reality or other “out of body” sensory experiences more realistic, using chemicals to produce illusions of temperature, wearable devices that simulate the grasp of small children, and technologies that change the perception of an object’s softness.

Lopes joined the University of Chicago in 2019 after receiving a Ph.D. in computer science from Hasso Plattner Institute in Germany.

Monica Rosenberg is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology whose research explores how we pay attention and how insights from attention research can help improve focus.

Her work has centered on individuals’ unique patterns of brain activity, and what they tell us about the nature of the brain and mind. Her lab uses functional MRI, behavioral experiments, and machine learning methods to investigate how attention differs between individuals, changes over time, and interacts with processes including learning and memory.

The lab has found that even data collected while a person is simply resting in an MRI scanner (and not completing a task) can be used to predict aspects of their behavior, including how well they pay attention and remember information. A recent study explored how people’s attention fluctuates as they take in narratives, finding that they tend to be more engaged during emotionally intense parts of the plot.

Rosenberg joined UChicago in 2019 after completing her Ph.D. and postdoctoral work in psychology at Yale University, and her undergraduate degree in cognitive neuroscience at Brown University.