Curto wins Sloan Research Fellowship

Carina Curto
Carina Curto

Carina Curto, assistant professor of mathematics, has been selected for a Sloan Research Fellowship for her research in the field of mathematical neuroscience.

This two-year fellowship awards Curto $50,000 to put toward her research.

"I was thrilled to receive the news," Curto said. "This award will benefit my research significantly, especially because of its flexible nature. I greatly appreciate all those who supported me in my nomination, as well as my close collaborators."

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which announced its newest recipients on Feb. 15, awards 118 Sloan Research Fellowships each year, bringing total grants in the program to $5.9 million annually. The fellowships seek to stimulate fundamental research by early-career scientists and scholars of outstanding promise. Twenty fellowships are allocated in the field of mathematics.

"Dr. Curto is an extraordinarily talented mathematician with a strong command of the literature in theoretical neuroscience and brilliant insights into completely new ways of applying a wide variety of mathematical ideas to problems in neuroscience and developing the mathematics needed to consider such problems," said John Meakin, professor and chair of the UNL Department of Mathematics, who nominated Curto for the award. "I am extremely pleased that she was named a Sloan Research Fellow, as this is an extraordinarily competitive award, involving nominations for many of the very best scholars of her generation from the United States and Canada."

Originally from Iowa City, Iowa, Curto joined the UNL faculty in 2009 after earning her bachelor's degree from Harvard University and her Ph.D. from Duke University. She held postdoctoral positions at Rutgers University and New York University. Her research, funded by a three-year National Science Foundation grant, uses mathematics to improve understanding of how the brain works, especially at the level of information processing in neural circuits. Many neurological disorders such as autism, Parkinson's disease and schizophrenia are believed to arise from malfunctions in neural circuitry.

Curto said she has not yet decided how she will use the fellowship funds, but she said it would be related to her current research.

Once chosen, Sloan Research Fellows are free to pursue whatever lines of inquiry are the most compelling, and their Sloan funds can be applied to a wide variety of uses.

"Dr. Curto's work has the potential to make a transformational impact on the field of theoretical neuroscience," Meakin said. "She has been able to apply algebraic, geometric and topological methods to solve problems in neuroscience that appeared to be quite intractable, and her work is developing a mathematical framework for understanding the relationship between stimulus space structure and neural activity. She is rapidly establishing herself as one of the leading figures in this field, worldwide."

Past recipients of Sloan Research Fellowships have gone on to win 38 Nobel prizes, 14 Fields Medals in mathematics and eight John Bates Clark awards in economics. Established in 1955 to provide support and recognition to scientists, the fellowship program has supported more than 4,200 early-career researchers.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, founded in 1934, makes grants to support original research and broad-based education related to science, technology and economic performance and seeks proposals for original projects led by outstanding individuals or teams.

- Lindsay Augustyn, Center for Science, Math and Computer Education

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