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Four Faculty Members Receive Sloan Research Fellowships

Four Caltech faculty members have been awarded the prestigious Sloan Research Fellowship for 2020: Stevan Nadj-Perge, assistant professor of applied physics and materials science; Yuki Oka, assistant professor of biology and Chen Scholar; Joseph Parker, assistant professor of biology and biological engineering; and Omer Tamuz, professor of economics and mathematics.

The fellowships, awarded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, "seek to stimulate fundamental research by early career scientists and scholars of outstanding promise," according to the organization's website. Each year, the Sloan Foundation grants the fellowships to 126 researchers; this year, the awards will come with $75,000 to be spent as the winners see fit.

Stevan Nadj-Perge studies quantum electronic properties of nano-devices made from novel materials that are only a few atoms thick. Such devices provide a playground for exploring exotic electronic states at sub-nano length scales and in the future may be used for storing quantum information. In his research, he uses scanning, tunneling microscopy and electrical transport measurement techniques at cryogenic temperatures. Recently, Nadj-Perge and his team imaged graphene bilayer stacked at the "magic angle"—two single-atom-thick carbon sheets placed in a specific orientation that yields unusual electric properties such as correlated insulating states and superconductivity.

Nadj-Perge received his PhD from Delft University of Technology. He joined the Caltech faculty in 2016.

Yuki Oka studies how the brain and body work together to maintain the body's internal environment, a process called homeostasis. Using mice as a model organism, the Oka laboratory recently published a series of papers describing how the mammalian brain detects internal dehydration and drives thirst, the neural basis of thirst processing in the brain, and the neural mechanisms underlying salt appetite and satiation.

Oka received his PhD from the University of Tokyo and joined the Caltech faculty in 2014. Oka is an affiliated faculty member with the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience at Caltech and is a New York Stem Cell Foundation Robertson Investigator.

Joseph Parker uses rove beetles (Staphylinidae) and their relationship with ants as a unique model system to understand the mechanisms that underpin how different organisms interact with each other. His work is shedding light on molecular and cellular phenomena that shape how animals perceive and communicate with other living organisms and evolve to forge new kinds of social relationships. He and his team have found that the ant–beetle symbiosis has evolved not just once but independently many times in Staphylinidae, often leading to extremely similar adaptations in widely separate lineages. Parker's laboratory is probing this dramatic example of convergent evolution to understand how complex evolutionary changes can arise repeatedly and predictably across the tree of life.

Parker received his PhD from the University of Cambridge. He joined the Caltech faculty in 2017. Parker is an affiliated faculty member with the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience at Caltech.

Omer Tamuz works in probability, dynamics and group theory, and in their applications to topics in microeconomic theory, including information, risk, and uncertainty. Recently, he and collaborators published research describing risk assessment when taking into account background uncertainty.

Tamuz received his PhD from the Weizmann Institute of Science. He joined the Caltech faculty in 2015.

Written by Lori Dajose