U professor duo receives top honors

Two U scholars were chosen from a field of more than 500 qualified scientists from across the country to receive Sloan Research Fellowships.

The prestigious award-received by Katrin Becker, assistant professor of physics and Christopher Hacon, assistant professor of mathematics-recognizes scholars of exceptional talent with “outstanding promise” according to the fellowship brochure.

Twenty-six fellowship recipients were awarded the Nobel Prize later in their careers.

The two-year award of $40,000 begins this month and can be applied to anything from the development of research laboratories to trainee support.

Becker plans to “build a string-theory group” with the funds while Hacon said he will concentrate on travel-both to attend conferences and to collaborate with other scientists.

Candidates for the award are required to hold a doctorate in a science-related field. They also must be nominated by a department head or senior scholar.

“[Hacon] has a stellar record and already has a number of publications. He is highly regarded by senior people in his field,” said Aaron Bertram, the professor of mathematics who nominated Hacon.

“He has already been invited to speak in Italy and hold a summer research course,” Bertram said.

Hacon’s current research is in the field of birational algebraic geometry. “I love research in my field. I plan to continue that,” Hacon said when asked about future goals.

Becker was nominated by Zeev Vardeny, professor of physics.

Her interests include establishing string theory as a unifier of short and long distance theories. To further conduct research in this area, she says she hopes to establish a string theory group.

“When I came, there were not many string theorists at the U. I would like to build a group by working together with the math department,” Becker said.

She also anticipates that the money will extend to provide a research assistant.

Becker, who received her doctorate in Switzerland, started research at the U in August of 2002.

Hacon received his doctorate from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1998 before coming to the U.

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