Prestigious research fellowships awarded to MSU College of Natural Science faculty

  • Feb 23, 2016
  • Faculty & Staff, Research, Mathematics, Physics & Astronomy

Two Michigan State University College of Natural Science (NatSci) faculty members – Matthew J. Hirn and Kendall Mahn – have been selected to receive 2016 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowships.

The prestigious two-year, $55,000 fellowships are awarded yearly by the Sloan Foundation to early-career scientists in recognition of distinguished performance and a unique potential to make substantial contributions to their fields of research.

Matthew Hirn

Matthew Hirn

Hirn, an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics and the Department of Computational Mathematics, Science and Engineering (CMSE), joined MSU in 2015. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland in 2009 and continued his training as a postdoc at Yale University, followed by a postdoc at École Normale Supérieure in Paris, France.

Hirn’s research is at the interface of data science and scientific computing, and consists of both foundational and applied work related to the mathematical analysis of high dimensional data. He develops multilevel, multiscale algorithms that learn patterns in complex data to attack difficult scientific problems, primarily in the physical and biological sciences. He is also a passionate supporter of undergraduate and graduate education and research.

“It is a great and humbling honor to be counted among the past and present Sloan Research Fellows,” Hirn said. “Personally, it further motivates me to strive to do good science, while reinforcing my belief that the avenues my collaborators and I have chosen have indeed been, and will continue to be, interesting. The award will give additional flexibility to my research, and will allow for greater risk taking, which, hopefully, will lead to better and more innovative science.”

Andrew Christlieb, University Foundation Professor of Mathematics and CMSE chair, was thrilled about Hirn’s selection as a Sloan fellow and the additional support it will lend to his innovative research.

“Matt’s work is unique in that he is developing next generation machine learning algorithms in order to address some of the most pressing and challenging problems arising in large scale computational modeling,” Christlieb said. “This aspect of Matt’s work makes him a critical link in CMSE, and really points to an untapped potential at the interface of computing and data science. We are truly honored that the Sloan Foundation has taken this opportunity to recognize one of our energetic, young scientists.”

Kendall Mahn

Kendall Mahn

Mahn, an assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, joined MSU in 2014 as a high-energy particle experimentalist who specializes in neutrino physics, including neutrino scattering and neutrino oscillations. Neutrinos come in three types, and quantum mechanical effects cause them to “oscillate” between types as they travel through space. Precision measurements of these oscillations may resolve open questions about the nature of neutrinos, and larger questions about why we live in a matter-dominated universe.

Mahn received her Ph.D. from Columbia University in 2009, and since then has been a member of the T2K neutrino collaboration at the high-energy accelerator research organization in Tokai, Japan.  She also is involved in the planned Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE) at Fermilab in Illinois, and is a member of the IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole.

“I am beyond excited to receive the Sloan Research Fellowship,” Mahn said. “It validates the enormous effort of my collaboration with T2K to understand the properties of the elusive subatomic particle, the neutrino. This fellowship will enable me to explore new and transformative ways to understand how neutrinos interact with existing and future neutrino experiments.”

Philip Duxbury, professor and chair of the MSU Department of Physics and Astronomy said that Mahn is in a unique position to carry out her work because she is the only U.S. tenure stream professor who is a member of the T2K, DUNE and IceCube experiments.

“The award of a Sloan Fellowship to Dr. Mahn is a terrific honor for her and for the Department of Physics and Astronomy,” Duxbury said. “This award will enable her to carry out a bold plan to change the way that neutrino measurements are made and analyzed, providing new probes of physics beyond the standard model of elementary particle physics."

Sloan Research Fellowships were established in 1955 to provide support and recognition to scientists, often in their first appointments to university faculties, who were endeavoring to set up laboratories and establish their independent research projects with little or no outside support. Forty-three Sloan Research Fellows have won Nobel Prizes later in their careers, and hundreds have received other honors.