Matthew Hirn awarded prestigious DARPA Director's Fellowship

  • May 31, 2018
  • research, DARPA, Award
  • Homepage Hero, Faculty & Staff, Research, CMSE, Mathematics
Image of Matthew Hirn
Matthew Hirn

Matthew Hirn, MSU assistant professor in the Departments of Mathematics and  Computational Mathematics, Science and Engineering (CMSE), was awarded the Director’s Fellowship from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

In 2016, Hirn won the DARPA Young Faculty Award (YFA), which aims to consistently establish and sustain groups of young scientists motivated to pursue high-risk, high-reward research by pairing selected researchers with DARPA program managers and providing them with up to $500,000 in funding for two years.

Now, at the end of his initial two-year period for the YFA, Hirn has been selected for the highly competitive Director’s Fellowship. The award extends his YFA research for a third year and provides him with additional funds totaling $250,000.

“It’s gratifying for DARPA to recognize the hard work that my team and I have put into this project,” Hirn said. “Professionally, we are all happy to be able to continue working on it, as we find the research very interesting.”

“This third year is highly competitive and is by no means guaranteed,” said Andrew Christlieb, CMSE chair. “It is awarded only to young investigators seen as leading the field and making real progress in their area of research. I congratulate Matt on this well-deserved honor and look forward to his continued success. We are happy to have him as a member of our team.”

Hirn has been collaborating with Yue Qi, associate professor of chemical engineering and materials science in the MSU College of Engineering, to develop the theory and proof of concept behind algorithms that predict the chemical properties of interest in lithium battery research.

“We have been developing machine learning algorithms for many-particle physics,” Hirn explained. “These algorithms try to learn from data the nature of interactions in many-particle systems without having to simulate the system via models from quantum mechanics.

“In year three of the project, we are aiming to push the collaboration with Dr. Qi and use these machine learning tools to make a scientific impact in the understanding of materials related to lithium batteries,” he added.

"The DARPA Director's Fellowship is a major acknowledgement of the excellence of Professor Hirn's research,” said Keith Promislow, Department of Mathematics chair in the College of Natural Science. “The award sets him up for a lifetime of interaction with DARPA and guarantees that his students and postdoctoral fellows will be working on the science that propels the United States’ technical interests.

"This is the sort of award that acts as a springboard for a young professor's career," Promislow added.

For more information on the Young Faculty Award and DARPA, visit


Banner image: Multiscale representation of a planar molecule that has been learned as an intermediate step in the algorithm. Image courtesy of Matthew Hirn.