Three University of Michigan researchers named Sloan Research Fellows

February 20, 2024

Three University of Michigan researchers were selected from more than 1,000 scientists to be named Sloan Research Fellows for 2024.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation announced 126 early-career researchers who have been selected to receive research fellowships. Awarded annually since 1955, the fellowships honor exceptional U.S. and Canadian researchers whose creativity, innovation and research accomplishments make them stand out as the next generation of leaders.

Anne Draelos
Anne Draelos

New U-M fellows are: Anne Draelos, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and computational medicine and bioinformatics at the College of Engineering and Medical School; Sarah Peluse, assistant professor of mathematics at the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts; and Wenjing Wang, assistant professor of chemistry and research assistant professor at the Life Sciences Institute.

Draelos and her team feed real-time data into adaptive machine-learning models to characterize brain activity at a given point in time. With that snapshot in hand, they design ways to perturb the neural circuit in order to learn about the brain.

The Sloan Research Fellowship will allow the Draelos lab to dig into how their models find underlying features of neural activity, filtering out noise while retaining important details. This approach, exploring what are known as latent dynamics, has been successful in understanding how brain activities drive simple behaviors.

Sarah Peluse
Sarah Peluse

“I feel very grateful to be receiving this honor,” Draelos said. “This award feels like an affirmation of my research plans, and it is exciting to me that the Sloan Foundation senses the same enthusiasm I do by including me in this program.”

Peluse, an assistant professor of mathematics, primarily works in additive combinatorics and analytic number theory, but, recently, has also been working on problems in adjacent fields, including ergodic theory, harmonic analysis, representation theory, and discrete geometry.

“I’m very honored to have been selected as a Sloan Research Fellow,” Peluse said.

Wang and her lab employ protein engineering to design genetically encoded molecular sensors and actuators to study brain signaling and neurodegenerative diseases. Their research focuses on pinpointing the timing and locations of neuromodulator release within the brain and investigating their regulatory functions in various neuronal pathways. They also work on designing novel therapeutics for targeting the alpha-synuclein fibrils associated with Parkinson’s Disease.

Wenjing Wang
Wenjing Wang

“We are thrilled and honored to receive the Sloan Research Fellowship,” Wang said. “Thanks to the Sloan foundation for supporting our endeavors in developing molecular sensors and tools, which are instrumental in advancing our study of the neuromodulatory system.”

To date, 57 Fellows have received a Nobel Prize, including Moungi Bawendi, last year’s recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Seventy-one have won the National Medal of Science, 17 have won the Fields Medal in mathematics and 23 have won the John Bates Clark Medal in economics, including every winner since 2007.

“Sloan Research Fellowships are extraordinarily competitive awards involving the nominations of the most inventive and impactful early-career scientists across the U.S. and Canada,” said Adam Falk, president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “We look forward to seeing how fellows take leading roles shaping the research agenda within their respective fields.”

Open to scholars in seven fields—chemistry, computer science, earth system science, economics, mathematics, neuroscience and physics—the Sloan Research Fellowships are awarded in close coordination with the scientific community. Winners receive a two-year, $75,000 fellowship that can be used flexibly to advance the fellow’s research.

Nominations for the 2025 Sloan Research Fellowships will open on Monday, July 15, 2024.

Michele Santillan contributed to this story.