Vying against researchers from hundreds of other colleges and universities nationwide, young faculty members from the University of Rochester have claimed an impressive four of 350 prestigious grants given by the National Science Foundation this year to boost the teaching and research of young scientists. It's highly unusual for an institution the size of the University, with only 334 faculty members in its core College, to boast so many winners of the annual Faculty Early Career Development awards, NSF officials say.
Nearly 2,000 young researchers apply for the 350 grants awarded each year. Rochester's 1997 winners are assistant professors Adam Frank in physics and astronomy, Sandhya Dwarkadas and Mitsu Ogihara in computer science, and David Albonesi in electrical engineering. Each will receive a four-year grant worth at least $200,000.
Three of Rochester's winners share an interest in developing the computers of the future. "Computer engineering continues to grow in importance, and these awards to our rising young stars show that computer architecture will be a particularly fertile field for Rochester into the 21st century," says Professor Kevin Parker, chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering.
Albonesi, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, is tackling the complex task of designing microprocessor chips containing ever more millions of transistors. He develops specialized hardware and software for evaluating the myriad design alternatives facing computer architects. Before joining the Rochester faculty last year, Albonesi worked for 10 years as a hardware design engineer and manager at IBM and Prime Computer.
Dwarkadas studies ways to wring supercomputer performance from networks of computers. Ideally, a network of eight computers used in parallel would have eight times the processing power of a single computer, but today's networks attain such efficiency only for some applications and with significant complexity for network users. Dwarkadas hopes to harness the potential of such networks with new software that merges performance and ease of use. She received her Ph.D. from Rice University in 1993 and worked there as a research scientist before arriving at Rochester last year.
Ogihara's research examines a whole new kind of computer, made of DNA in a test tube. He recently proposed a method for winnowing out computationally useful strands of DNA from a vial full of molecules of this genetic blueprint, knocking out one of the major barriers to DNA computation. Ogihara is one of a growing number of computer scientists who believe that DNA could serve as a very compact, efficient, and accurate form of memory in computers, just as it does in the human body. Ogihara, who earned a Ph.D. in 1993 from Tokyo Institute of Technology, taught at SUNY Buffalo for one year before coming to Rochester in 1994.
Frank is a theoretical astrophysicist who analyzes huge jets of gas that spray out of both newborn and dying stars. These emissions, which often take the shape of a figure eight around a star, can persist for up to a million years. Using the powerful mathematical capabilities of computers, Frank studies the role these gases play in stellar evolution, gaining insight into the life cycle of stars. He focuses on magnetic fields within the gases, which might also help advance astronomers' understanding of the sun. After graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of Washington, and Leiden University in the Netherlands, Frank was a Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Minnesota. He joined the Rochester faculty in 1996.