Five members of the MIT faculty have been awarded Guggenheim Fellowships for 2007. They are Edmund Bertschinger, astrophysics division head and professor of physics; Erica Funkhouser, poet and lecturer in the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies; Michel X. Goemans, professor of applied mathematics; Erika Naginski, associate professor of the history of art; and Anne Whiston Spirn, professor of landscape architecture and planning.
Winners of the annual competition are selected on the basis of their "distinguished achievement in the past and exceptional promise for future accomplishment," from an applicant base of nearly 2,800 scientists, scholars and artists in fields ranging from the natural sciences to the creative arts.
Bertschinger, a theoretical astrophysicist whose research interests focus on cosmology and relativistic astrophysics, uses "analytic methods and computer simulations to improve our understanding of the formation of cosmic structure after the big bang, the evolution of dark matter in galaxies and larger structures, and time variability in accretion disks around black holes and neutron stars," according to Guggenheim materials.
Funkhouser is the author of four collections of poetry, including "Pursuit" (Houghton Mifflin, 2002) and "Sure Shot and Other Poems" (1992). Her poems have been published in magazines including The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and Poetry.
James G. Paradis, head of the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies and the Robert M. Metcalfe Professor of Writing and Humanistic Studies, described Funkhouser as an "extraordinary contemporary poet, with a brilliant blend of fact and metaphor in her work."
Goemans does research in discrete algorithms and combinatorial optimization. The award will allow him to continue his work on a problem for which no general method of solution exists--the traveling salesman problem: If a salesman starts at point A, and if the distances between every pair of points are known, what is the shortest route that visits all points and returns to point A?
Naginski is a historian of European art and architecture of the 17th through the 19th centuries whose research interests focus on Enlightenment aesthetics, theories of public space, cultural memory and historic preservation and the critical traditions of the history of art. She is working on a project on graphic arts and the philosophy of history in the 18th century.
Spirn has an international reputation as the preeminent scholar working at the intersection of landscape architecture and environmental planning. She is working on rebuilding the landscape of community.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 11, 2007 (download PDF).