UM mathematician receives Sloan Fellowship

Charlotte Chan

A University of Michigan mathematician is one of 118 early career researchers selected to receive a 2022 Sloan Fellowship.

Charlotte Chanassistant professor in the Department of Mathematics at UM, received the scholarship for her work in representation theory, the study of symmetries using linear algebra.

Representation theory is a subject that arises in scientific fields such as physics, computer science and chemistry. For example, the representation theory of a circle’s rotational symmetries is Fourier analysis, an area that has many applications in science and engineering, Chan says. In particular, she focuses on representation-theoretic problems “rooted in deep interactions with number theory and algebraic geometry”.

“How can we use polynomials (algebraic geometry) to produce spaces with symmetries (representation theory) to understand prime number phenomena (number theory)? Chan said. “It’s an old question, with a lot of rich history and exciting new developments. It’s a privilege to be able to explore that image, even seeing a new bond, it’s very invigorating.

Awarded annually by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation since 1955, the fellowships honor extraordinary American and Canadian scholars whose creativity, innovation, and research achievements distinguish them as the next generation of leaders.

Nominees must be nominated by their scientific colleagues, and winners are selected by independent committees of senior researchers based on the nominee’s research achievements, creativity, and potential to become a leader in their field. More than 1,000 researchers are nominated each year for 118 fellowships. Winners receive a $75,000 scholarship over two years that can be used flexibly to advance the fellow’s research.

“My favorite aspect of math is when a ‘dictionary’ or a correspondence between two different fields provides a new perspective, such as translating difficult questions on one side into manageable questions on the other,” said Chan. “It is an honor to be selected as a Sloan Scholar. I am excited to pursue new ideas and new directions, with the flexibility and support provided by this fellowship.

A Sloan Fellowship is one of the most prestigious awards available to young researchers, in part because so many former fellows have gone on to become eminent figures in science. Noted physicists Richard Feynman and Murray Gell-Mann were Sloan Research Fellows, as was mathematician John Nash, one of the fathers of modern game theory. In five of the past six years, Nobel Prize winners in physics have included former fellows – Andrea Ghez (2020), James Peebles (2019), Donna Strickland (2018), Kip Thorne (2017) and Duncan Haldane ( 2016).

In fact, 53 scholars have received Nobel Prizes in their respective fields, 17 have won the Fields Medal in Mathematics, 69 have received the National Medal of Science, and 22 have won the John Bates Clark Medal in Economics, including all winners since 2007.

“Today’s Sloan Research Fellows represent the scientific leaders of tomorrow,” said Adam Falk, President of the Sloan Foundation. “As terrific young scholars, they are already shaping the research agenda in their respective fields, and their pioneering work will not stop there.

Scholars for the 2022 cohort come from a wide range of 51 institutions across the United States and Canada, from large public university systems to Ivy League institutions to small liberal arts colleges.

Open to researchers in seven scientific and technical fields – chemistry, computer science, earth system science, economics, mathematics, neuroscience and physics – Sloan Research Fellowships are awarded in close coordination with the scientific community.

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