• Credit: Popular Science
02/16/2011 19:00:00

Daraio Awarded Sloan Fellowship

Caltech's Chiara Daraio is among this year's crop of Sloan Research Fellows. Daraio, who this year was promoted from assistant to full professor of aeronautics and applied physics, is one of 118 faculty from across the country to receive the two-year, $50,000 fellowship, given to early-career scientists and scholars in recognition of achievement and the potential to contribute substantially to their fields.

"It's a great honor for me to receive a Sloan Research Fellowship, a very competitive award," says Daraio, whose research focuses on the design and testing of new materials with "unprecedented" mechanical properties. "We design new materials by assembling fundamental building blocks that interact nonlinearly, and we can choose these nonlinear interactions by controlling, for example, the shape and material properties of the building blocks. The materials we design can have several practical applications, from acoustic imaging to shock absorption."

"I am particularly pleased because the fellowship is awarded primarily in the basic sciences—physics, in my case—and this means that our research is being recognized also for its contribution to the basic sciences, beyond its engineering origins," says Daraio. Her group will use the funds to support a new research area related to the study of strongly nonlinear mechanical phenomena at micro- and nanoscales.

Presented annually since 1955 by the Sloan Foundation, the fellowships are awarded in chemistry, computer science, economics, mathematics, evolutionary and computational molecular biology, neuroscience, and physics. Potential fellows must be nominated by their peers and are subsequently selected by an independent panel of senior scholars. Once named, Sloan Research Fellows are free to pursue whatever research most interests them, and they can use their fellowship funds in a wide variety of ways. Thirty-eight Sloan Research Fellows have gone on to win the Nobel Prize in their fields.

Written by Kathy Svitil