For nearly 20 years, scientists and institutions around the world have been part of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), which has helped map millions of stars and galaxies and created some of the most detailed three-dimensional images of the universe.
János Kollár, a Hungarian mathematician specializing in algebraic geometry and a former professor of mathematics at the University of Utah, is a co-recipient of the 2017 Shaw Prize in Mathematical Sciences. Established in 2002 in Hong Kong, and first awarded in 2004, the Shaw Prize honors outstanding contributions in astronomy, life science and medicine, and mathematical sciences. Kollár has donated a significant portion of his half of the prize to the U’s Department of Mathematics to establish the János Kollár Endowed Assistant Professor Lecturer at the U. Kollár says he was motivated to make the gift because the U provided such excellent working conditions during the 12 years he was here at the beginning of his career, and because several of the results that the prize committee recognized were developed while he was at the U.
Sean Lawley, assistant professor of mathematics at the U, believes the most interesting math often comes from trying to explain phenomena in other fields. For example, if you're seeking an answer to a question about biology, physics, or economics, the answer often leads to new and interesting mathematical theory. "Historically, much of the inspiration for mathematics has come from physics," said Lawley, "but biology is increasingly a driving force that is pushing the frontiers of math."
Anil Seth, Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy, fell in love with astronomy in high school in Lincoln, Nebraska. Now, when he isn’t teaching classes at the U, or mentoring graduate students, he spends his time searching for black holes at the centers of low-mass galaxies.
Cindy Burrows has been selected as the recipient of the 2018 Willard Gibbs Medal of the Chicago Section of the American Chemical Society. This is one of the most prestigious honors in chemistry, its purpose "To publicly recognize eminent chemists who, through years of application and devotion, have brought to the world developments that enable everyone to live more comfortably and to understand this world better." Medalists are selected by a national jury of eminent chemists from different disciplines, the nominee being a chemist who, because of the preeminence of his/her work in and contribution to pure or applied chemistry, is deemed worthy of special recognition. This award has been given since 1911, and only one previous Utah chemist (Henry Eyring, 1968) has received it. Please join us in congratulating Dr. Burrows on this impressive recognition!
Christopher Hacon, University of Utah mathematician, will be award the 2018 Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics at a ceremony in Silicon Valley on Dec. 3. The awards ceremony, hosted by Morgan Freeman, will be broadcast from NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA and begins at 8 p.m. Mountain Time. Live streams of the broadcast can be found on the Facebook and YouTube platforms of Breakthrough Prize and National Geographic. The $3 million prize recognizes Hacon’s work in algebraic geometry, the field that studies geometric objects defined by polynomial equations. It connects and elevates algebra, which solves polynomial equations, and geometry, which describes the shapes arising from those equations.
The next generation of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-V), will move forward with mapping the entire sky following a $16 million grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The grant will kickstart a groundbreaking all-sky spectroscopic survey for a next wave of discovery, anticipated to start in 2020. The University of Utah has been a key member of the SDSS collaboration since 2009, and all of the survey data will be processed and stored at the U’s Center for High-Performance Computing. The Sloan Digital Sky Survey has been one of the most successful and influential surveys in the history of astronomy, creating the most detailed three-dimensional maps of the universe ever made, with deep multi-color images of one third of the sky, and spectra for more than three million astronomical objects. The survey’s fifth generation will build off the earlier SDSS incarnations, but will break new ground by pioneering all-sky spectroscopic observations, taking the spectra of another 6 million objects, and monitoring many of the objects’ changes over time.
A handful of University of Utah researchers for years have investigated the venom of marine snails and how it might be transformed into a safer alternative to opioid painkillers. Now, they have new backing to expand their research. The U. this week said it has received $10 million from the Department of Defense to further study cone snail venom and search for similar compounds from the venom of other marine organisms. Years from now, they hope, a synthetic version of the venom will become a substitute for drugs like morphine, fentanyl and oxycodone. “We’re going back to natural sources to find the next generation of pain drugs,” said Russell Teichert, a research associate professor in the Department of Biology.
Many of today’s most successful companies were created by groups of friends: Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard started HP in a garage in Palo Alto; Microsoft was cofounded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen, childhood friends from Lakewood, Washington; and Google established by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, part of the same Ph.D. cohort at Stanford.
Nitin Phadnis, an Assistant Professor of Biology, is trying to solve a genetics puzzle that has eluded scientists, and philosophers, for nearly two centuries – how do two species evolve from one species?
It is well known that speciation – the process by which one species splits into two – involves the evolution of reproductive isolating barriers such as the sterility or inviability of hybrids between certain populations.