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Current Miller Fellows

Elaine Angelino photo


Elaine Angelino

Miller Fellow, 2014 - 2017
EECS
Host: Michael I. Jordan
Ph.D. Institution: Harvard
E-mail: elaine.angelino[at]gmail.com

A central tool for scientific data analysis is inference, the process of uncovering structure in data. However, traditional inference procedures have not scaled to handle massive datasets or complex mathematical representations of structure. My research lies at interface of computer science and statistics, and is focused on developing new algorithms and theory to make large-scale inference feasible.



Michelle Antoine photo


Michelle Antoine

Miller Fellow, 2014 - 2017
MCB/HWNI
Host: Hillel Adesnik
Ph.D. Institution: Albert Einstein College of Medicine
E-mail: michelle.antoine[at]phd.einstein.yu.edu

I will be investigating how disturbances in the balance between excitatory and inhibitory synaptic transmission within cortical circuits influence sensory perception and computation.



Gokhan Barin photo


Gokhan Barin

Miller Fellow, 2013 - 2016
Chemistry
Host: Jeff Long
Ph.D. Institution: Northwestern University
E-mail: barin[at]berkeley.edu

The development of multifunctional porous materials has the potential to address grand challenges, particularly selective gas capture/storage and catalytic conversions, in energy research. Dr. Barin is interested in achieving light-driven chemical transformations using porous materials, known as metal-organic frameworks, decorated with catalytically active sites. His research efforts will focus on the development of novel heterogeneous photocatalysts and understanding their fundamental principles in order to establish a structure-property relationship.



Inbal Ben-Ami Bartal photo


Inbal Ben-Ami Bartal

Miller Fellow, 2014 - 2017
Psychology/HWNI
Hosts: Dacher Keltner, Daniela Kaufer
Ph.D. Institution: University of Chicago
E-mail: bartalin[at]gmail.com

Empathy, the ability to recognize and share the emotional state of another, is the foundation of life in social groups. Empathy leads to helping behavior, cooperation, and social learning, and strengthens the group as a whole. The empathic response is rooted in evolutionarily ancient processes, and shared across diverse mammalian species. Dr. Ben-Ami Bartal researches the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying the empathic response. Using an integrative approach that includes data from humans and rodents, she seeks to explain the means by which observing another in distress activates a stress response in the observer, and engages pro-social motivation.



Thomas Bodin photo


Thomas Bodin

Miller Fellow, 2012 - 2015
Earth & Planetary Science
Host: Barbara Romanowicz
Ph.D. Institution: The Australian National University
E-mail: thomas.bodin[at]berkeley.edu

Similarly to medical imaging, where for example acoustic waves are used to image the human body, Dr. Bodin is interested in imaging the Earth's interior using seismic waves generated by earthquakes, and traveling through different structures of the planet. This is called seismic tomography and has been an active area of research in seismology for the last 30 years. He is particularly interested in tackling the problem probabilistically, where one fully accounts for uncertainties both in the observed seismic waves and on the final image of the Earth.



Carson Bruns photo


Carson Bruns

Miller Fellow, 2014 - 2017
Chemistry
Host: Matt Francis
Ph.D. Institution: Northwestern University
E-mail: cbruns[at]northwestern.edu

Nature has optimized the efficiency of photosynthesis by evolving an exquisite hierarchical protein network that arranges hundreds of pigments in circular arrays, which absorb sunlight and efficiently transfer the energy to neighboring arrays and reaction centers. My research involves the modification of virus capsid proteins with synthetic molecules and pigments to create light-harvesting arrays inspired by Nature's example. These synthetic modifiers are rationally designed with self-assembling and photophysical properties that impart the corresponding virus-based light-harvesting arrays with the ability to (i) self-assemble into predetermined nanostructures, and (ii) efficiently harvest and transfer solar energy. This strategy for constructing protein-based biomimetic materials is relevant to emerging applications ranging from nanofabrication to artificial photosynthesis.



Itay Budin photo


Itay Budin

Miller Fellow, 2012 - 2015
CBE/Bioengineering
Host: Jay Keasling
Ph.D. Institution: Harvard University
E-mail: budin[at]berkeley.edu

Lipid membranes are a ubiquitous organizing structure in biology and have evolved as physical environments for a host of fundamental molecular processes. Dr. Budin is broadly interested in understanding the function and evolution of cell membrane components. Specifically, he is exploring two sets of closely connected questions: 1) How does membrane lipid composition affect cellular function? What is the basis for diversity in membrane composition among organisms, tissues, and organelles? 2) How do the membrane's material properties, as determined by lipid composition, regulate cell function? What functions dictate the optimal physical state of cell membranes, which varies considerably in biology? Dr. Budin uses a combination of biophysical approaches and synthetic biology to address these questions.



Kestutis Cesnavicius photo


Kestutis Cesnavicius

Miller Fellow, 2014 - 2017
Mathematics
Host: Ken Ribet
Ph.D. Institution: MIT
E-mail: kestutis[at]math.mit.edu

I am interested in arithmetic geometry, which is an area of mathematics that lies at the interface of number theory and algebraic geometry. Specifically, I employ techniques from algebraic geometry and representation theory to study the arithmetic of abelian varieties together with various related questions.



Qian Chen photo


Qian Chen

Miller Fellow, 2012 - 2015
Chemistry
Host: Paul Alivisatos
Ph.D. Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
E-mail: qchen[at]berkeley.edu

Dr. Chen is tremendously interested in transmuting the inanimate matter into animate. This becomes challenging yet more intriguing when the matter is tiny, down to the nanometer size. The aim is to devise machines of such size, capable of accomplishing physical tasks at a high temporal (i.e. only when a trigger is received) and also a high spatial resolution (i.e. only where the machine resides). These tiny machines whose operations, programmed into them by design, would work in a bottom-up manner: one action in the targeted elementary unit will influence, and even transform the upper-level states.



Francesco D'Eramo photo


Francesco D'Eramo

Miller Fellow, 2012 - 2015
Physics
Host: Yasunori Nomura
Ph.D. Institution: M.I.T.
E-mail: fraderamo[at]berkeley.edu

The Large Hadron Collider, a particle accelerator located at CERN, is investigating the fundamental laws of nature by colliding protons as well as lead nuclei at the highest energies ever achieved. Proton-proton collisions are providing the first thorough exploration of the Fermi energy scale, where new physics signals are expected. Lead-Lead collisions are studying the quark-gluon plasma properties, a phase of matter which filled the early universe during its first few microsecond. In his research, Dr. D'Eramo works both on predicting signals of new physics at the Fermi scale, and developing new theoretical tools to study the matter produced in heavy-ion collisions.



Rebekah Dawson photo


Rebekah Dawson

Miller Fellow, 2013 - 2016
Astronomy
Host: Eugene Chiang
Ph.D. Institution: Harvard
E-mail:

It was once thought that all planets form in situ and subsequently follow their orbits like clockwork. But this simple picture cannot explain the exotic orbits of the majority of the hundreds of confirmed "extra-solar planets" (planets orbiting other stars). Using evidence from the orbits of extra-solar planets and small, rocky bodies in our own solar system, I'm investigating how planets "migrate" from where they formed to where we observe them today and whether this migration is a smooth or violent process.



Tijmen de Haan photo


Tijmen de Haan

Miller Fellow, 2014 - 2017
Physics
Host: William Holzapfel
Ph.D. Institution: McGill University
E-mail: tijmen[at]physics.mcgill.ca

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally collapsed structures in the universe. Their abundance is a powerful tracer of the underlying properties of the universe. Using the 10-m South Pole Telescope, Tijmen de Haan studies the subtle distortions in the cosmic microwave background to discover hundreds of new galaxy clusters and their impact on our knowledge of the expansion history and energy content of the universe.



Gregory Finnigan photo


Gregory Finnigan

Miller Fellow, 2012 - 2015
Molecular & Cell Biology
Host: Jeremy Thorner
Ph.D. Institution: University of Oregon
E-mail: gfinnigan[at]berkeley.edu

How cells are able to assume an elegant spectrum of shapes and forms is an ongoing question in molecular biology. An attractive candidate that allows for great flexibility at the nanoscale level is the septin family of proteins. Septin subunits combine into small core complexes that can also be assembled into long filaments. A remarkable diversity of higher-order geometries can be generated by septins including bundles, sheets, gauzes, hour-glass shapes, and rings. Dr. Finnigan will investigate the molecular mechanisms responsible for the assembly and regulation of septin complex geometries within budding yeast. He will utilize a combination of genetic, molecular, and biochemical approaches in these studies of cytoskeletal structure and intracellular signaling cascades.



Timofey Frolov photo


Timofey Frolov

Miller Fellow, 2012 - 2015
Materials Science & Engineering
Host: Mark Asta
Ph.D. Institution: George Mason University
E-mail: timfrol[at]berkeley.edu

Dr. Frolov's research focuses on thermodynamics of interfaces and phase equilibrium. His thesis work was devoted to the development of thermodynamic theory of grain and phase boundaries that includes effects of nonhydrostatic stresses, temperature and chemical composition. The developed theory was applied to study interface properties in metallic systems using atomistic simulations. Additional areas of research include: diffusion, premelting, modeling of homogeneus and heterogeneous nucleation, and transitions at interfaces.



Brooke Gardner photo


Brooke Gardner

Miller Fellow, 2013 - 2016
Molecular & Cell Biology
Host: Andreas Martin
Ph.D. Institution: UCSF
E-mail: brooke.gardner[at]berkeley.edu

Eukaryotic cells utilize membrane-bound organelles to perform specialized chemical reactions. Peroxisomes, one class of organelle, can be created de novo within the cell and thus present a compelling opportunity to understand organelle biogenesis. As a Miller Fellow, Dr. Gardner will study the mechanistic details of peroxisome biogenesis with the ultimate goal of repurposing these steps to create custom organelles.



Sebastian Hohna photo


Sebastian Hohna

Miller Fellow, 2014 - 2017
Statistics
Host: Rasmus Nielsen
Ph.D. Institution: Stockholm University
E-mail:

Natural selection indirectly acts on the genome by favoring individuals with advantageous features, so called traits, and penalizing individuals with disadvantageous features. These traits rise and fall in frequency in populations and with them their linked gene(s). The traces of past selective events can still be observed in genomes of present day species. My research focuses on the development of statistical and computational methods to infer which parts of the genome have been under deviating strength of selective pressures and the correlation between these genome segments and observed traits by especially focusing on the joint inference of homologous (shared by ancestry) molecular characters, evolutionary histories, rates of selection and trait evolution.



Justin Kim photo


Justin Kim

Miller Fellow, 2013 - 2016
Chemistry
Host: Carolyn Bertozzi
Ph.D. Institution: MIT
E-mail: justin.kim[at]berkeley.edu

The study of biological systems at a molecular level can be greatly facilitated by the development and application of bioorthogonal reactions. These are chemical reactions that neither interfere nor interact with native biochemical processes, are non-toxic to living organisms, and involve a selective reaction between a pair of reaction partners on biologically relevant time scales. Dr. Kim's research will be focused on the development of new bioorthogonal tools and their potential applications to protein engineering and glycobiology.



Chen Li photo


Chen Li

Miller Fellow, 2012 - 2015
Integrative Biology/Electrical Engineering & Computer Science
Hosts: Robert J. Full, Ronald S. Fearing
Ph.D. Institution: Georgia Institute of Technology
E-mail: chen.li[at]berkeley.edu

Similar to the emergence of personal computers thirty years ago, robots are on the verge of becoming a major part of everyday life. Most existing robots can already operate effectively from immobile stations (e.g., car welding robots) or on controlled, idealized surfaces (e.g., vacuuming robots); however, locomotor performance is still generally poor in complicated, dynamic terrain (e.g., stairs). By contrast, animals nimbly move about in nature, and provide a source of inspiration for biomechanics and neurosensory control of legged locomotion, particularly in complex environments. Chen's research aims to discover how animals move in complex terrain, and apply these design principles to create bio-inspired robots with locomotor and navigation capabilities beginning to approach those of biological organisms.



Milo Lin photo


Milo Lin

Miller Fellow, 2012 - 2015
Chemistry
Host: David Chandler
Ph.D. Institution: California Institute of Technology
E-mail: milolin[at]berkeley.edu

Dr. Lin is interested in how proteins perform their functions. His focus is on allostery, whereby binding of a ligand to its (activator) site on a protein leads to enhanced or suppressed activity of a remote (effector) site on the protein. In this sense, allosteric proteins are logic gates within the cell. Using statistical mechanical and computational methods, his goal is to understand allostery at the level of prediction.



Christopher Martin photo


Christopher Martin

Miller Fellow, 2013 - 2016
ESPM / Molecular & Cell Biology
Hosts: Erica Rosenblum, Craig Miller
Ph.D. Institution: UC Davis
E-mail: chmartin[at]berkeley.edu

Chris is interested in the evolution and ecology of adaptive radiations, rapid bursts of ecological, phenotypic, and species diversification spread unevenly across the tree of life. His research integrates field measurements of natural selection, functional morphology, behavioral ecology, phylogenetics, genetic mapping, and population genetics with a focus on replicated adaptive radiations of fishes in the Caribbean and West Africa. By mapping the complex relationship between fitness, phenotype, genotype, and environment, he hopes to gain a predictive understanding of one of the major processes driving the evolution of biodiversity.



Sung-Jin Oh photo


Sung-Jin Oh

Miller Fellow, 2013 - 2016
Mathematics
Host: Daniel Tataru
Ph.D. Institution: Princeton University
E-mail: sungjinoh[at]berkeley.edu

At the heart of many physical theories are Partial Differential Equations (PDEs), which are often nonlinear. I am interested in rigorously understanding the regularity and long term behavior of solutions to such equations, with an emphasis on geometric evolutionary equations such as the Einstein gravitational field equations, Yang-Mills equations and Chern-Simons gauge theories. These PDEs possess rich geometric and analytic structure, and ideas drawn from a wide variety of fields, such as geometric flows, Riemannian and Lorentzian geometries and Fourier analysis, naturally come together in their study.



Shayan Oveis Gharan photo


Shayan Oveis Gharan

Miller Fellow, 2013 - 2016
Electrical Engineering & Computer Science
Host: Umesh Vazirani
Ph.D. Institution: Stanford University
E-mail: oveisgharan[at]berkeley.edu

Optimization problems arise in a wide range including logistics, planning, marketing, advertising and policy-making. The main focus of Shayan's research is to study the approximability of classical NP-hard optimization problems. This area of research is motivated by the fact that many important problems are known to be NP-hard, i.e., under standard conjectures they can not be solved optimally with polynomial time algorithms. Instead, one can hope to efficiently find an approximate solution. Shayan is generally interested in developing mathematical tools and use them to design efficient algorithms that can guarantee a near optimal solution. He wants to rigorously prove that the cost of the solution of an algorithm is very close to the cost of the optimum in the worst case or in the average case.



Rachel Pepper photo


Rachel Pepper

Miller Fellow, 2011 - 2014
Integrative Biology / Civil & Environmental Engineering
Hosts: Mimi Koehl, Mark Stacey
Ph.D. Institution: Harvard
E-mail: rachel.pepper[at]berkeley.edu

Dr. Pepper is interested in problems at the intersection of fluid mechanics and biology and in exploring research that lends insight both to underlying physical mechanisms and to biological functions, strategies, and evolution. In particular, she studies the fluid flows that microscopic organisms create and inhabit using experiments, theory, and simulations.



Adam Retchless photo


Adam Retchless

Miller Fellow, 2011 - 2014
ESPM
Host: Rodrigo Almeida
Ph.D. Institution: University of Pittsburgh
E-mail: adam[at]retchless.us

Many organisms can grow in a diverse range of environmental conditions, even when some of those conditions would kill closely related organisms. Dr. Retchless investigates the genetic basis of this phenomenon in the bacterial plant pathogen Xylella fastidiosa, which not only grows within multiple host species (causing disease in several crops), but also colonizes the foreguts of insects so that it can be transmitted to uninfected plants. To understand the genetic basis of adaptation to multiple environments, Dr. Retchless is comparing strains of X. fastidiosa that grow in different plants and modeling evolutionary processes that could cause bacteria to gain or lose the ability to grow on a host species of plant.



Joshua Ruderman photo


Joshua Ruderman

Miller Fellow, 2011 - 2014
Physics
Host: Yasunori Nomura
Ph.D. Institution: Princeton
E-mail: jtruderman[at]lbl.gov

The Large Hadron Collider, that is now running at CERN, may soon discover new dynamics and uncover new symmetries of our Universe. Dr. Ruderman is interested in developing new theories of particle physics that can be tested at the Large Hadron Collider. More generally, he would like to understand how experiments can teach us about solutions to long-standing problems of particle physics, such as the origin of mass and the particle nature of dark matter.



Steven Sam photo


Steven Sam

Miller Fellow, 2012 - 2015
Mathematics
Host: David Eisenbud
Ph.D. Institution: M.I.T.
E-mail: svs[at]math.berkeley.edu

Dr. Sam is interested in the interactions between algebraic geometry, commutative algebra, and invariant theory. Algebraic geometry and commutative algebra are the study of the geometry and algebra of systems of polynomial equations and invariant theory is the study of symmetries of such systems. In particular, Dr. Sam studies questions such as how to calculate free resolutions, how to describe moduli spaces, and finding connections with other subjects. Such topics have been considered for a long time now, so he is especially interested in integrating modern techniques such as representation theory, sheaf cohomology, and computer algebra.



Ashivni Shekhawat photo


Ashivni Shekhawat

Miller Fellow, 2013 - 2016
Materials Science & Engineering
Host: Robert Ritchie
Ph.D. Institution: Cornell University
E-mail: ashivni[at]berkeley.edu

In my research I study the science of fracture, or how things break, and how to keep them from breaking. Some of the specific questions that I am interested in are about the emergent distribution of fracture strengths, the spatial distribution of pre-fracture damage, the path that a crack follows in a given material, and the description of fracture from a statistical mechanics point of view. As a Miller fellow I will endeavor to study the fracture properties of specific material systems, such as biological materials, or nano-scale devices. I hope that my research will help us develop the next generation of stronger and smarter materials.



Blake  Sherwin photo


Blake Sherwin

Miller Fellow, 2013 - 2016
Physics
Host: Uron Seljak
Ph.D. Institution: Princeton University
E-mail: sherwin[at]berkeley.edu

Most of the matter in our universe is made up of invisible dark matter, which is distributed within enormous web-like structures throughout the cosmos. These dark structures can be mapped by measuring small distortions caused by their gravity in the observed image of the cosmic microwave background. Using these distortions - known as gravitational lensing - to map and study the large-scale dark matter structures, Blake Sherwin hopes to gain insight into some of the key questions of modern cosmology, such as the nature of dark energy, the properties of fundamental particles known as neutrinos, and the relation between dark matter and the luminous matter within stars and galaxies.



Amy Shyer photo


Amy Shyer

Miller Fellow, 2013 - 2016
Molecular & Cell Biology
Host: Richard Harland
Ph.D. Institution: Harvard
E-mail: ashyer[at]berkeley.edu

A change in the shape of any structure, including a biological one, must ultimately be explained in terms of the forces exerted on it. For instance, in developing tissues, densely packed layers of cells, or epithelia, both experience and exert mechanical forces as they move, bend, and fold into patterned structures. Dr. Shyer's long-term goal is to understand such morphogenesis at the level of mechanical forces. An excellent model system for these studies is epithelial wound closure in the Xenopus embryo. As a Miller Fellow, Dr. Shyer will ask: What physical mechanisms govern wound closure? How do molecular pathways drive changes in forces and physical properties, and how do these forces in turn impact molecular signaling events? Finally, why do some wound closures result in scars while others do not?



Ryan Trainor photo


Ryan Trainor

Miller Fellow, 2014 - 2017
Astronomy
Host: Mariska Kriek
Ph.D. Institution: Caltech
E-mail: trainor[at]astro.caltech.edu

The evolution of galaxies to the present day was driven by complex interactions of dark matter, stars, gas, and black holes. Ryan uses optical and infrared telescopes to quantify the results of these interactions, including the production of elements synthesized through star formation. In particular, his research focuses on galaxy formation in the neighborhoods of extremely active supermassive black holes, or quasars, where the energy released from accreting matter can both violently terminate star formation and illuminate protogalactic gas clouds that would otherwise be undetectable with current instruments.



Da Yang photo


Da Yang

Miller Fellow, 2014 - 2017
Earth & Planetary Science
Host: David Romps
Ph.D. Institution: Caltech
E-mail:

Moist convection - in essence, thunderstorms - is a fundamental process on Earth, yet it is one of the most difficult processes to model and one of the least well understood. Da is interested in developing quantitative theories of moist convection by building idealized mathematical models of moist convection and simulating its interaction with large-scale atmospheric flows. These studies will help to improve the representation of moist convection in climate models and renew our confidence in climate forecasting.



Norman Yao photo


Norman Yao

Miller Fellow, 2014 - 2017
Physics
Host: Dung-Hai Lee
Ph.D. Institution: Harvard
E-mail:

Statistical mechanics is the formalism that connects thermodynamics to the microscopic world. It governs familiar every day processes ranging from heat transport and electrical conductivity to the diffusion of gases. In isolated quantum systems, the breakdown of statistical mechanics is known as many-body localization. Dr. Yao is interested in the understanding the associated phase transition and in proposing both systems and observables with which to probe this phenomenon. The realization of such a phase of matter may enable the protection of exotic topological orders and holds potential as a strongly-interacting, disordered, many-body quantum computer.



Sa Kan Yoo photo


Sa Kan Yoo

Miller Fellow, 2012 - 2015
Molecular & Cell Biology
Host: Iswar Hariharan
Ph.D. Institution: University of Wisconsin-Madison
E-mail: syoo4[at]berkeley.edu

A fundamental unresolved question in biology is how organ size is determined. In a similar vein, how organs regenerate upon tissue damage is also a fascinating problem. Dr. Yoo will address these central questions, using the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster and the tropical fish, Danio rerio. He hopes his research will provide novel insights into the regulation of organ size and therapeutic strategies in regenerative medicine.


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