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The Fannie and John Hertz Foundation Announces 2019 Graduate Fellows

From designing safer robots to repairing damaged nervous systems,
many of this year’s Fellows apply an interdisciplinary approach while
addressing problems of social importance

LIVERMORE, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–lt;a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Research?src=hash" target="_blank"gt;#Researchlt;/agt;–The Fannie and John Hertz Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated
to advancing groundbreaking applied science with real-world benefits for
all humanity, has announced the 2019 recipients of the prestigious Hertz
Fellowship.

Drawing from nine of the country’s most prestigious research
universities, 11 young researchers were selected from a pool of more
than 840 applicants to receive up to five years of academic support
valued at up to $250,000. Along with the funding, Fellows will also be
free of many constraints typical of other fellowships, providing them
the freedom to pursue innovative research wherever it may lead.

“It is increasingly challenging to get funding for truly creative
scientific research, but it is even more so for young researchers to
pursue their own ideas,” said David Galas, Chairman of the Hertz
Foundation’s Board of Directors and a senior investigator at the Pacific
Northwest Research Institute. “I am very gratified that these terrific
new Hertz Fellows will now be able to focus on the research questions
they find most compelling in their fields.”

This year’s Fellows will pursue research at the core of discovery and
impact, with interests ranging from finding better ways for matching
drugs to new diseases, to developing better therapies for cancer, to
manipulating the quantum world for technological advancement. As noted
by Robbee Baker Kosak, President of the Fannie and John Hertz
Foundation, “By combining approaches from mathematics and computer
science, machine learning and biology, and so much more, this year’s
class reflects the dynamic nature of science and engineering today. It
also reflects the type of bold, risk-taking research that the Hertz
Foundation has supported for almost six decades. I eagerly look forward
to watching them fuel the innovation essential to our lives and the
world.”

The 2019 class joins a community of Fellows that includes leading
scientists and engineers who have been honored with the Nobel Prize, the
National Medal of Science, the Turing Award, the Breakthrough Prize, and
the MacArthur Fellowship (“Genius Grant”). They are also leaders in
business and industry whose accomplishments include developing
groundbreaking diagnostics and treatments for disease, new innovations
for energy creation and storage, novel tools for exploring earth and
space, and creating new supercomputer designs. Read below to learn more
about the 2019 Hertz Fellows.

Introducing the 2019 Hertz Fellows

Alex Atanasov (Harvard University; Physics) Alex
Atanasov is fascinated by phenomena existing at vastly different scales
while also adhering to common scientific principles. For example, the
branches of certain plants exhibit the same splitting angles as running
rivers that carve across a continent. A PhD student in theoretical
physics at Harvard University, Atanasov studies the interrelationship of
these fractal-like patterns and the underlying physical property that
characterizes them. He is especially interested in how this property
affects strongly interacting systems, such as when an ordinary metal
becomes a superconductor. He studies these systems using techniques and
concepts from quantum field theory, the framework for understanding the
interactions of fundamental particles.

Dolev Bluvstein (UC Santa Barbara; Physics) — Dolev Bluvstein
approaches nanoscale technology with the ambition to revolutionize the
capacity of humans to understand the universe and master its behavior.
He has joined the growing wave of research in quantum information
science that could potentially transform modern computing,
communications, and biological and environmental sensing. His interests
involve technologically harnessing the unique rules of quantum
mechanics, which dictate the laws of physics at atomic and subatomic
scales. A senior physics major at the University of California, Santa
Barbara, Bluvstein’s work includes exploiting an atomic-sized defect in
diamond to reshape nuclear magnetic resonance technology — an
advancement that could have far-reaching implications in biology and
medicine.

Dylan Cable (Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Computer Science)
— Cable’s exploration of neuroscience and biology as a Stanford
University undergraduate convinced him that life science problems are
the most important to solve. His goal: to uncover the inner workings of
vital biological processes by forging new linkages between mathematics,
machine learning (teaching computers to learn by experience) and
computational biology. A first-year PhD student in computer science at
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he specializes in improving
physical methods for biological data collection and creating
mathematical methods for biological data analysis. Cable regards data
collection and data analysis as inseparable and must be woven into deep
knowledge of the biological problems he seeks to solve.

Jordan Edmunds (UC Berkeley; Electrical Engineering) — A PhD
student in electrical engineering at the University of California,
Berkeley, Edmunds specializes in the fabrication of neural interfaces —
tools for studying and interacting with the brain. As an undergraduate
at UC Irvine, where Edmunds earned dual degrees in electrical
engineering and biological sciences, he created devices that connect
with the human nervous system. The work included developing an
electrical stimulator to elicit muscle contractions and restore movement
to paraplegics. Work on the full system continues at the UCI
Brain-Computer Interface Lab. He now works closely with Michel Maharbiz,
the co-inventor of tiny, wireless sensors called neural dust for use as
biomedical implants.

Benjamin Eysenbach (Carnegie Mellon University; Machine Learning)
— Eysenbach is a first-year PhD student at Carnegie Mellon University
who teaches computers to make smart decisions that help humans. His
research uses statistics and machine learning to make robots safer and
enabling them to learn autonomously, with less human engineering effort.
Before his PhD, Eysenbach spent a year conducting robotics research at
Google Brain, teaching simulated robots to do backflips and learning how
to avoid breaking themselves. He studied mathematics as an undergraduate
at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As an undergraduate
researcher, he taught computers to understand images and videos using
machine learning and computer vision.

Bailey Flanigan (University of Wisconsin-Madison; Biomedical
Engineering)
— Flanigan combines approaches from computer science,
economics, and the physical sciences to address disparities and complex
problems in society. Her interest in complex systems originally drew her
primarily to medical questions as an undergraduate in biomedical
engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She conducted
undergraduate research in cancer genetics, heart disease, and functional
magnetic resonance imaging, and then broadened her focus to include
social and economic systems. As an undergraduate, she managed a team of
engineers that designed and implemented a potable water system in rural
Ecuador. She will travel to South Africa this summer to research
maternal health and build software for a rural hospital. Next fall she
will begin graduate work in computer science at Carnegie Mellon
University, having completed a research fellowship in economics last
academic year at Yale University.

Noah Golowich (Harvard University; Mathematics and Computer Science)
— Golowich’s research interests include developing greater understanding
of the theoretical reasons behind the success of today’s deep learning
methods, which use neural networks to perform tasks that could
revolutionize technologies as seemingly unrelated as language
translation, game theory, and self-driving cars. A senior at Harvard
University, Golowich is completing a joint degree in mathematics and
computer science. He also has contributed to the theory of communication
complexity, which involves structuring communication between computers
in the most efficient way to solve a given problem. Some of his work in
communication complexity is motivated by cryptography — generating
efficient algorithms for two parties to communicate securely and
efficiently.

Melissa Mai (Johns Hopkins University; Biophysics and Mathematics)
— Currently a senior biophysics and mathematics major at the Johns
Hopkins University, Mai has pursued different experimental and
computational projects studying vaginal health, blood cell development,
protein evolution, and cell motility. Through her diverse research
experiences, she has become interested in the cooperation and
competition among individuals in a population and, more generally, in
the application of quantitative, physics-based approaches to biological
problems. This fall, Mai will begin her PhD in biophysics at Harvard
University, where she hopes to integrate both experiment and theory to
delve further into cellular biophysics on a population scale.

Nitya Mani (Stanford University; Mathematics and Computer Science) 
Mani explores the underlying properties of networks, called graphs,
which characterize transportation systems, social media, biological
systems, and other aspects of modern life. She is particularly
interested in how nodes in a graph can be grouped to have many internal
connections or to influence the rest of the network. She also uses
machine learning on networks with applications that include finding new
diseases that an existing drug can treat. A senior in mathematics and
computer science at Stanford University, Mani also grapples with
challenging optimization problems that reside at the intersection of
those fields. Many everyday questions, including finding optimal
pharmaceutical treatments and processing images, are optimization
problems that are difficult to solve using current techniques.

Jacqueline Turner (University of Colorado Denver; Medical Science)
— Driven by a desire to improve cancer patient care, Turner is training
to become a clinician scientist at the CU Denver School of Medicine and
aspires to translate laboratory research results directly into clinical
practice. As an undergraduate at the International Biorepository and
Research Laboratory at the University of Colorado Denver, her work on
gene rearrangements in tumor cells already has helped introduce basic
scientific research into the clinical setting, starting with the
successful treatment of a stage IV melanoma patient. Turner then
identified novel therapies for three other stage IV melanoma patients.
Her goal is to develop methods that will impact the treatment and
prevention of tumor formation.

Nina Zubrilina (Stanford University, Mathematics) — From
squeezing spheres into ever-shrinking volumes of space to analyzing the
structure of the tree-like diagrams that help scientists understand the
evolutionary relationship of plant and animal species, Zubrilina’s
research ferrets out the relationship between classes of objects and
phenomena that might otherwise remain opaque. Zubrilina uses mathematics
to deepen our biological understanding of the tree of life — science’s
depiction of how life on Earth grows, branches, and blossoms. Last
summer she made novel contributions to sphere packing while interning at
Microsoft Research. This geometrical problem has intrigued
mathematicians for centuries and is closely connected with
error-correcting codes and signal transmission, from cellphones to deep
space communication.

ABOUT THE FANNIE AND JOHN HERTZ FOUNDATION

The Hertz Foundation is dedicated to advancing groundbreaking applied
science with real-world benefits for all humanity. Celebrating 60 years
in 2017, the Hertz Fellowship is one of the most exclusive fellowship
programs in the world. The 1,200 Hertz Fellows are the leaders, shapers
and disruptors of American science, engineering and mathematics. The
Fannie and John Hertz Foundation is the legacy of John Hertz, a
Hungarian immigrant who made his fortune by capitalizing on the
entrepreneurship prospects in the budding automotive industry. He
believed that innovative and entrepreneurial solutions were vital to the
strength, security and prosperity of our nation, and began the
Foundation to support exceptionally talented students expected to have
the greatest impact on the world’s problems.

For more information on the Hertz Foundation and the innovations led by
our Hertz Fellows please visit www.hertzfoundation.org.

Special Announcement Features:

“The
Impact And Importance Of Early Career Research: A Roundtable With Hertz
Fellow Interviewers W. Neil Mccasland, Jessica Seeliger And Philip
Welkhoff”

“Looking
Ahead: A Discussion With Three Of The 2019 Hertz Fellows”

Contacts

Fannie and John Hertz Foundation
James Cohen
Peterson Rudgers
Group
Email: [email protected]

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