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Continuing 65 year streak, Princeton professors receive Sloan fellowship

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Princeton recipients of the Sloan Research Fellows.
Courtesy of Ben Gebo Photography; Sameer A. Khan/Fotobuddy; C. Todd Reichart, Department of Molecular Biology; David Kelly Crow; Adena Stevens; and Rick Soden, Department of Physics

On Feb. 15, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation named 125 early-career researchers as recipients of the annual Sloan Research Fellowship. The 2023 Sloan Research Fellows include six of the University’s professors: Shane Campbell-Staton, Felix Heide, John Jimah, Anirudha Majumdar, Mikkel Plagborg-Møller, and Sanfeng Wu.

Established in 1934, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is a philanthropic, non-profit organization that aims to “fund research and education in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and economics,” according to its webpage. Winners of the Sloan Research Fellowship are granted a two-year fellowship and a $75,000 stipend to foster research endeavors.


According to the 2023 Sloan Research Fellows press release, the fellowship represents “one of the most prestigious awards available to young researchers, in part because so many past Fellows have gone on to become towering figures in science.” Among the fellowship’s notable historical recipients include acclaimed physicist Richard Feynman ’42 and mathematician John Nash GS ’50.

Certain trends can be seen amongst Princeton recipients of the Sloan Research Fellowship since 1955. Physics researchers represent the largest number of Sloan Fellows from a given field, with 82 of the past winners recognized for their contributions to Physics. The second largest group of Sloan Fellows from Princeton are researchers in mathematics.


Additionally, Princeton produced its highest number of Sloan fellows in 2019. 


The Daily Princetonian reached out to all six professors named 2023 Sloan Research Fellows to learn more about their reactions to the award and the nature of their work. Campbell-Staton, Heide, and Majumdar did not respond to requests for comment in time for publication.

Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology John Jimah was recognized with a Sloan fellowship in neuroscience. According to Jimah’s lab’s webpage, he studies “the molecular mechanism of membrane remodeling processes in human cells and malaria parasites” using a range of biological techniques and approaches.

In an email to the ‘Prince,’ Jimah wrote that he “was thrilled” upon learning that he had been named a 2023 Sloan Research Fellow. Jimah said he will use the Fellowship award to support his present line of research: shedding light on the regulation of endocytosis, a key process performed by cells to absorb substances into their membranes.

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“Cells, including neurons, take up substances with the cell membrane folding inward into a sack containing the substance to be internalized,” Jimah explained. “Protein molecular machines then chop off the sack to allow transport of the substance into the cell.”

According to Jimah, gaining a deeper understanding of endocytosis requires the use of rigorous, state-of-the-art techniques.

“We are studying the protein machinery involved in this process by taking atomic-detail snapshots of the machinery, using cryo-electron microscopes, to understand the mechanism of these machines. This process of endocytosis is key in neurons for neurotransmission,” explained Jimah.

Assistant professor of economics Mikkel Plagborg-Møller was named a Sloan fellow in economics. Plagborg-Møller told the ‘Prince’ that he works as a time-series econometrician, developing “statistical methods for analyzing economic data in order to track the causes of how the national economy evolves over time.”

In an email to the ‘Prince,’ Plagborg-Møller wrote, “I feel honored that my research is appreciated by fellow economists. It is an exciting time to work on methods for analyzing economic data, and I am happy that the prize committee has chosen to recognize my field of study.”

Plagborg-Møller categorized his specific research interests as two-pronged: evaluating different statistical methods and devising innovative techniques of his own.

“My specific research agenda has focused on two questions. First, I have sought to illuminate the advantages and disadvantages of frequently used methods for analyzing the dynamic effects of macroeconomic policies. These methods are used extensively in central banks and other policy institutions as well as in academia,” wrote Plagborg-Møller.

“Second, I have developed new techniques for estimating the feedback loop between economic inequality across individuals and the behavior of the economy as a whole,” he continued.

Additionally, Plagborg-Møller said he is thankful for the University’s economics department. He wrote, “I was part of an unusually large cohort of new assistant professors, which immediately gave me a sense of belonging.”

Assistant professor of physics Sanfeng Wu received a Sloan fellowship in physics. Wu’s research primarily seeks to investigate quantum properties of matter in real-world materials, which Wu said has important implications on future innovations and technological advancements.

“There are many open questions and enormous possibilities in this field, which is important for advancing both fundamental physics and future technologies. The Fellowship fund, which is more flexible to use compared to conventional grants, will be used to explore some of the risky directions that I really hope to explore,” Wu wrote in an email to the ‘Prince.’

Upon learning that he had been named a 2023 Sloan Research Fellow via an email sent by the Sloan Foundation on Jan. 24, Wu described it as “an exciting moment” that he had to keep secret from friends and colleagues until Feb. 15, the official date when Fellows were publicly announced.

Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) Shane Campbell-Staton received a Sloan fellowship in Earth system science. Campbell-Staton’s research focus is evolution in the Anthropocene, or the current era in which humanity has exerted a profound influence on the global environment. Using techniques like environmental niche modeling and experimental physiology, Campbell-Staton seeks to fill in the gaps of present-day research in this realm.

Assistant professor of computer science Felix Heide received a Sloan fellowship in computer science. In particular, Heide’s research centers on optics and computer vision, with the ultimate objective of using nano-fabrication techniques to create a thin optical computer that can be situated within camera lenses.

Assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering Anirudha Majumdar was also named a Sloan Fellow in computer science for his work in constructing autonomous robotic systems. Currently, his lab aspires to devise adaptable drones and other kinds of robots capable of operating seamlessly within complex and unpredictable environments.

On Feb. 15, Majumdar tweeted, “I am delighted to have received the Sloan Fellowship in Computer Science! I'm very grateful to my research group, mentors, collaborators, and colleagues for making this possible. Great to see six recipients from @Princeton! #SloanFellow.”

The descriptions of the other three recipients and their areas of research can be found in a Feb. 15 press release by the Office of Communications announcing the 2023 Sloan Research Fellows.

A database of all Princeton University Sloan Fellows since 1955, and their research field, can be found below.


Amy Ciceu is a senior News writer who covers research and COVID-19-related developments.

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