Two faculty members at the University of Washington have been awarded early-career fellowships from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The new Sloan Fellows, announced Feb. 16, are Ashleigh Theberge, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Jodi Young, an assistant professor in the School of Oceanography.
Open to scholars in eight scientific and technical fields — chemistry, computer science, economics, mathematics, molecular biology, neuroscience, ocean sciences and physics — the fellowships honor those early-career researchers whose achievements mark them among the next generation of scientific leaders.
The 128 Sloan Fellows for 2021 were selected in coordination with the research community. Candidates are nominated by their peers, and fellows are selected by independent panels of senior scholars based on each candidate’s research accomplishments, creativity and potential to become a leader in their field. Each fellow will receive $75,000 to apply toward research endeavors.
This year’s fellows come from 58 institutions across the United States and Canada, spanning fields from evolutionary biology to data science.
Theberge is an assistant professor of chemistry. Her research probes the chemical signals that cells use to communicate with one another. The organization of our bodies, with different types of cells taking on discrete functions, depends on this biochemical language.
“We’re alive because our cells can exchange chemical messages in appropriate ways,” said Theberge, who is also an adjunct assistant professor of urology at the UW. “All cells — human cells, microbes — utilize chemical signals to deliver information and influence the properties of other cells.”
Young is an assistant professor in the School of Oceanography. She studies microbial oceanography, with a focus on the role of marine algae in the carbon cycle. In particular, her research explores polar ecosystems and other extreme environments, and the biochemistry of photosynthesis. Her research combines field work, algal culture manipulations and biochemical and molecular analyses to uncover the evolution and adaptations of biological carbon fixation in the oceans.
“Half of all photosynthesis happens in the oceans, across an amazingly diverse collection of organisms,” Young said. “My group’s research focuses on understanding the underlying physiological and molecular adaptations of marine photosynthesis. Understanding how marine algae have and will adapt to a changing climate reveals insights into how life on Earth evolved and will respond in the future.”