Sloan Fellowships for Animal Behaviorist, Chemist and Mathematician

Researcher poses next to fish tan
Newly named Sloan Research Fellow Kate Laskowski studies the freshwater Amazon molly, a small fish that reproduces by cloning itself, for her research on the origins of individuality.

Three UC Davis faculty members are among 125 recipients of this year’s Sloan Research Fellowships, prestigious awards given by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to early-career scientific researchers seen as emerging leaders in their fields.


The 2023 fellows, including UC Davis’ Kate L. Laskowski, Jesús M. Velázquez and Alexander S. Wein, “represent the most promising scientific researchers working today,” the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation said in announcing its selections Feb. 15.

The foundation gives the awards in chemistry, computer science, earth system science, economics, mathematics, neuroscience and physics. Each fellow receives $75,000 to be spent over a two-year term on any expense supportive of their research.

The new fellows from UC Davis are:

Kate Laskowski headshot, UC Davis faculty
Kate L. Laskowski

Kate L. Laskowski, assistant professor, Department of Evolution and Ecology, College of Biological Sciences — She is an empirical animal behaviorist who studies the origins of individuality. Using the freshwater Amazon molly, a small fish that reproduces by cloning itself, she examines how and why individuals develop unique behavioral phenotypes. With sophisticated cameras that continuously monitor how genetically identical fish respond to different stimuli across their lives, Laskowski is shedding new light on the age-old question of “nature or nurture?” Laskowski has received support from the National Science Foundation, and, in 2022, won the Outstanding New Investigator of the Year Award from the Animal Behavior Society.

“Kate Laskowski is a decisive and visionary young scientist who is gifted with experimental animal behavior and a role model for fellow researchers. Dr. Laskowski’s young career embodies the very phenomenon she studies — the role of experience in shaping an individual’s personality,” said Professor Peter Wainwright, chair of the Department of Evolution and Ecology.

Jesús M. Velázquez headshot, UC Davis faculty
Jesús M. Velázquez

Jesús M. Velázquez, assistant professor, Department of Chemistry, College of Letters and Science — A materials chemist employing techniques from inorganic chemistry, materials physics and chemical engineering, he addresses defining problems in the areas of energy conversion and storage. His research focuses on the synthesis and characterization of chalcogen-based energy conversion materials, many of which show great promise as electrocatalyst materials and electronic device components. Named as one of Chemical & Engineering News’ Talented 12 in 2021, he is the recipient of a prestigious CAREER award from the National Science Foundation and, more recently, the Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award.

“Professor Velázquez has emerged as a leader in advancing the educational mission of our department, receiving very strong student evaluations in undergraduate general chemistry courses and advancing evidence-based learning methods,” said Professor David Goodin, chair of the Department of Chemistry. “We hold his accomplishments in the highest esteem and are confident of his continued success in the field of energy-related inorganic chemistry.”

Alexander Wein headshot, UC Davis faculty
Alexander S. Wein

Alexander S. Wein, assistant professor, Department of Mathematics, College of Letters and Science — Working at the mathematical foundations of data science, he develops sophisticated methods to efficiently extract useful information from large, often noisy, datasets. His work employs tools from probability, statistics and theoretical computer science, among other areas, and can be applied to tasks ranging from finding communities in random networks to discovering three-dimensional molecular structures via cryo-electron microscopy.

“Dr. Wein is a leader in data science and adjacent areas and has already made substantial contributions to this exciting discipline,” said Professor Anne Schilling, chair of the Department of Mathematics. “His mastery of a diverse range of highly technical areas of mathematical knowledge and his ability to draw on that broad base of knowledge to produce important new results are rare qualities and make him very well-positioned to produce groundbreaking research for many years to come.”

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