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Two Vanderbilt scientists win Sloan research fellowships

Feb. 25, 2010, 1:59 PM

Physicist Andreas Berlind and human geneticist Marylyn Ritchie at Vanderbilt University have each won two-year, $50,000 research fellowships from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation aimed at encouraging promising young scholars.

Berlind collects universes: The assistant professor of physics and astronomy studies the formation of the large-scale structure of the universe by analyzing simulated universes that begin under slightly different conditions. This allows the physicist to study issues such as the relationship between galaxies, which are observable, and the underlying dark matter, which is not. He runs these large simulations at supercomputer centers around the country. He also studies the clustering of galaxies using data from large observation surveys, such as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, a collaboration that Vanderbilt recently joined. Comparing the results of the simulations with observational data places important constraints on cosmology and galaxy formation physics. Berlind joined the Vanderbilt physics department in 2007.

Marylyn Ritchie is associate professor of molecular physiology and biophysics and of biomedical informatics, director of the program in computational genomics and an investigator in the Vanderbilt Center for Human Genetics Research. Since she joined the Vanderbilt faculty in 2004, Ritchie has focused on development of new computational and statistical methods to identify genes that increase the disease risk and which influence response to medications. Last fall she received a two-year, $1.8 million federal stimulus grant to use the university’s supercomputer to help identify connections between inherited and environmental factors that contribute to common, complex diseases like diabetes.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is a philanthropic nonprofit institution based in New York. It was established in 1934 by Alfred Pritchard Sloan Jr., then president and chief executive officer of the General Motors Corporation. Sloan Research Fellowships have been awarded since 1955. Since then, 38 Sloan Research Fellows have gone on to win the Nobel Prize in their fields and 14 have received the Fields Medal, the top honor in mathematics.

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Bill Snyder, (615) 322-4778