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School of Science welcomes seven new professors this spring

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Clockwise from top left: Semyon Dyatlov, Nikta Fakhri, Vadim Gorin, Gene-Wei Li, Gabriela Schlau-Cohen, Phillipe Rigollet, Lindley Winslow
Clockwise from top left: Semyon Dyatlov, Nikta Fakhri, Vadim Gorin, Gene-Wei Li, Gabriela Schlau-Cohen, Phillipe Rigollet, Lindley Winslow

The School of Science welcomes seven new assistant professors in the departments of Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, and Physics. Their research spans topics from the mathematics of machine learning to the precision control of DNA transcription and translation to the search for exotic subatomic particles.

“I am delighted to welcome these young new mathematicians and scientists to our faculty at MIT,” said Michael Sipser, dean of the School of Science and the Barton L. Weller Professor of Mathematics. “They carry on the great tradition of extraordinary research in the School of Science.”

Semyon Dyatlov, mathematics
Before joining the faculty, Semyon Dyatlov came to the Department of Mathematics as a Clay Research Fellow in 2013. He received his PhD from the University of California at Berkeley in 2013, under the guidance of Maciej Zworski. Dyatlov uses the methods of microlocal analysis to study problems in scattering theory, in particular questions regarding scattering resonances. The two principal applications of his work concern decay of waves on black-hole spacetimes (where resonances are known as quasi-normal modes) and decay of correlations for Anosov and Axiom A flows (and the corresponding Pollicott-Ruelle resonances).

Nikta Fakhri, physics
Combining approaches from physics, biology, and engineering, Nikta Fakhri seeks to understand the principles of active matter. Active matter is prominent in biology and is generally understood as a class of non-equilibrium systems in which microscopic components dissipate energy and thereby collectively organize to generate motions and forces on mesoscopic scales. As an important example of biological active matter, Fakhri will study the cell nucleus, in which the control and processing of genetic material is orchestrated by an intricate interplay of a large number of non-equilibrium processes. Fakhri will develop novel probes, such as single-walled carbon nanotubes, to map the organization and dynamics of non-equilibrium heterogeneous materials. In addition, she will use biology as inspiration for designing pluripotent materials that change their properties and functions in response to external stimuli. Fakhri joins the Department of Physics after a postdoctoral fellowship, supported by the Human Frontier Science Program, in the physics department at the University of Göttingen in Germany. In 2002, she received her BS in chemical and petroleum engineering from Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, Iran. She completed her PhD in chemical and biomolecular engineering at Rice University in 2011.

Vadim Gorin, mathematics
Vadim Gorin works on asymptotic representation theory, studying various properties of representations of groups linked into series — such as unitary groups, orthogonal groups, or symmetric groups — as the rank tends to infinity. In a related work on mathematical statistical mechanics and probability theory, Gorin focuses on 2-D lattice models, random matrices, and interacting particle systems. Before his appointment as assistant professor, Gorin came to MIT as a CLE Moore Instructor in 2012. In 2011, he earned his PhD in mathematics from Utrecht University, under the direction of Grigori Olshanski, Erik P. van den Ban, and Alexander Gnedin. He became a candidate of sciences in mathematics at Moscow State University, under the direction of Grigori Olshanksi and Boris Gurevich.

Gene-Wei Li, biology
Gene-Wei Li aims to elucidate the physical and quantitative principles behind the precise control of transcription and translation of DNA. His central research questions include how cells fine-tune their RNA and protein production in the right amounts to form stoichiometric complexes; how the amount of protein production is connected with the physiology of the entire cell; and how misregulation can have detrimental effects. Li joins the Department of Biology following a postdoctoral fellowship at University of California at San Francisco. He received his PhD in physics from Harvard University in 2010 and his BS in physics from the National Tsinghua University in Taiwan in 2004.

Phillipe Rigollet, mathematics
Phillipe Rigollet works at the intersection of statistics, machine learning, and optimization, focusing primarily on the design and analysis of statistical methods for high-dimensional problems. His recent research focuses on the statistical limitations of learning under computational restraints. At the University of Paris VI, Rigollet earned a BS in statistics in 2001, a BS in applied mathematics in 2002, and a PhD in mathematical statistics in 2006. He has held positions as a visiting assistant professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology and then as an assistant professor at Princeton University.

Gabriela Schlau-Cohen, chemistry
Gabriela Schlau-Cohen’s research employs single-molecule and ultrafast spectroscopies to explore the energetic and structural dynamics of biological systems. Schlau-Cohen works to develop new methodology to measure ultrafast dynamics on single proteins, which will be a means to study systems with both sub-nanosecond and second dynamics. In other research, she merges optical spectroscopy with model membrane systems to provide a novel probe of how biological processes extend beyond the nanometer scale of individual proteins. One application of these approaches will be exploring the underlying mechanisms of photosynthetic light harvesting. To understand these mechanisms, experiments will probe both the heterogeneity of the individual proteins and how they are wired together to produce efficient and adaptive systems. Schlau-Cohen joins the Department of Chemistry after a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University. She received her BS from Brown University in 2003 and her PhD in chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 2011.

Lindley Winslow, physics
Lindley Winslow is an experimental nuclear physicist whose primary focus is on neutrinoless double-beta decay. Neutrinoless double-beta decay is an extremely rare nuclear process which, if it is ever observed, would show that the neutrino is its own antiparticle, a Majorana particle. A Majorana neutrino would have profound consequences to particle physics and cosmology, among them an explanation of the universe’s matter-antimatter symmetry. Winslow takes part in two projects that search for double-beta decay at CUORE (Cryogenic Underground Observatory for Rare Events) and KamLAND-Zen, and works to develop new, more sensitive double-beta decay detectors. Winslow received her BA in physics and astronomy in 2001 and her PhD in physics in 2008, both from the University of California at Berkeley. After a postdoctoral fellowship at MIT, she was appointed as an assistant professor at the University of California at Los Angeles. Winslow has also been awarded a 2010 L’Oréal for Women in Science Fellowship.

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