Eighteen early-career researchers working in the fields of astronomy, biology, chemistry, computer/information sciences, ecology, geosciences, neuroscience, and physics will receive $875,000 each over five years to pursue their research.
Launched in 1988 to provide young scientists and engineers with flexible funding and the freedom to take risks and explore new frontiers in their work, the program annually invites fifty universities to nominate two faculty members for consideration. To be nominated, the researcher must be a faculty member who is eligible to serve as principal investigator on a research project in the natural and physical sciences or engineering and be no more than three years from the start of his or her faculty career.
This year's fellows include William Anderegg (University of Utah), who will focus his research on understanding and predicting the future of Earth's forests using a mix of experiments, field measurements, and mechanistic models; Kristin Bergmann (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), who is working to understand climate dynamics during the emergence of complex life on Earth and to better understand how rare complex life forms may be in the universe; Weizhe Hong (University of California, Los Angeles), who will examine fundamental questions regarding the functional organization of neural networks that control social behaviors and their disturbances in neuropsychiatric disorders; and Mansi Kasliwal (California Institute of Technology), who is working with gravitational wave observatories to search for light from neutron star mergers unabated by opacity.
"It really is amazing to see what brilliant researchers can do when given the room to take big risks," said Frances Arnold, chair of the Packard Fellowships Advisory Panel, 2018 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, and former Packard Fellow. "And I'm not only talking about their impressive contributions to their fields — I'm also talking about building entirely new disciplines and giving back to the next generation of scientists. I'm excited to see what's in store for this new class as it joins our welcoming community of fellows."
For a list of this year's Packard Fellows, see the Packard Foundation website.