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Two Faculty Awarded 2023 Guggenheim Fellowships

Anima Anandkumar, Caltech's Bren Professor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, and Hirosi Ooguri, Caltech's Fred Kavli Professor of Theoretical Physics and Mathematics and director of the Walter Burke Institute for Theoretical Physics, have been named 2023 Guggenheim Fellows.

They were among 171 scientists, writers, scholars, and artists honored by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, which, since 1925, has sought to "further the development of scholars and artists by assisting them to engage in research in any field of knowledge and creation in any of the arts, under the freest possible conditions," according to the foundation's press release. The fellowships were awarded based on peer reviews of nearly 2,500 applications.

Anandkumar is a computer scientist and leader in artificial intelligence (AI) research. She develops novel and efficient AI methods that enable and accelerate progress in interdisciplinary scientific domains, including weather forecasting, autonomous drone flight, scientific simulations, disease modeling, chemistry, and the social sciences.

"I saw the potential for AI to transform vast scientific domains, and Caltech is the perfect place to pursue this," Anandkumar says. "Its emphasis on interdisciplinary collaborations provides a fertile ground to pursue a broad range of problems while also helping to develop unifying theoretical frameworks for machine learning algorithms."

In addition to her appointment in the Department of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, she is an affiliated faculty member with the Center for Autonomous Systems and Technologies.

Anandkumar is a fellow of IEEE and the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), and she has received several awards including the Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship and the NSF Career Award. Previously, she taught at UC Irvine and was principal scientist at Amazon Web Services. Anandkumar holds degrees from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras and Cornell University, and conducted postdoctoral research at MIT.

Ooguri is well known for his contributions to string theory. He received the Guggenheim grant to apply his research to one of the biggest mysteries in physics today: quantum gravity. Quantum gravity refers to a set of theories attempting to unify the microscopic world of quantum physics with the macroscopic world of gravity and space itself. "It is not well appreciated how hard it is to build a consistent theoretical framework to unify general relativity and quantum mechanics," Ooguri says.

While on sabbatical from Caltech in the 2023–24 academic year, he plans to use the fellowship to make connections with other researchers, start new collaborations, and ultimately seek answers to these fundamental questions about the universe.

Ooguri, who grew up in rural Japan, has authored eight popular science books, and produced a science movie. "I became a scientist because of the books I read in the bookstore in my childhood neighborhood, and I feel it is my responsibility to inspire the public and the next generation of scientists by communicating the excitement of science," he says.

Ooguri received his bachelor's degree from Kyoto University in 1984 and his PhD from the University of Tokyo in 1989. Before becoming a Caltech professor in 2000, he was a professor at the University of Tokyo, the University of Chicago, Kyoto University, and UC Berkeley. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Mathematical Society, and he is the recipient of the Leonard Eisenbud Prize for Mathematics and Physics from the American Mathematical Society, the Humboldt Research Award, the Chunichi Cultural Award, the Nishina Memorial Prize, a Simons Investigator Award, and the Hamburg Prize for Theoretical Physics. In 2019, he was honored by the emperor of Japan with a Medal of Honor.

More information about the Guggenheim Fellowship is available on the foundation's website.

Written by Alyce Torrice

Caltech Media Relations