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Three UTSC researchers win Sloan Research Fellowships

Robert Young, Bianca Schroeder and Ruslan Salakhutdinov won prestigious Sloan Research Fellowships.

Three UTSC researchers – all in the Department of Computer & Mathematical Sciences (CMS) – were awarded Sloan Research Fellowships yesterday. The two-year, $50,000 awards are given by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to early-career scientists and scholars that it considers to have outstanding promise.

The Sloan Foundation awarded 10 fellowships in Canada this year, five of those to U of T researchers. Of only 10 Sloan Fellowships awarded in Canada this year, a total of three went to researchers in UTSC’s CMS department.

“It’s almost unprecedented,” says David Fleet, CMS chair. “For a relatively small department to be recognized with three Sloan fellowships in one year is an outstanding accomplishment

The  UTSC fellowship winners are Bianca Schroeder, assistant professor of computer science; Ruslan Salakhutdinov, assistant professor of statistics; and Robert Young, assistant professor of mathematics.

Companies like Google closely track Bianca Schroeder's work concerning system reliability. “One of my big goals is to gain a better understanding of how things break and why,” she says. Schroeder’s groundbreaking studies are helping companies understand the reliability of massive, internet-scale systems. She recently found that that computers work just as well at higher temperatures than generally thought, and recommended operators reduce the air conditioning to save money and prevent carbon emissions.

Salakhutdinov focuses on machine learning—one of the most exciting, high-impact areas of computer science—building techniques that allow computers to make sense of vast amounts of data. Google, Microsoft, IBM and Netflix all use deep models he pioneered to develop better image retrieval systems and improve speech recognition. “I’m trying to build intelligent systems that can find interesting structures in big data sets,” he says.

Robert Young’s research explores different aspects of geometry and geometric group theory. His collaborations and findings have had impact in a number of fields including medicine; he recently partnered with a theoretical biologist to construct a model for wave propagation in the heart.

Fleet says CMS has been able to recruit excellent young researchers largely because of U of T’s strong reputation in mathematics and computer science. “We’re able to attract some of the world’s top talent when we hire,” he says.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is a non-profit institution based in New York that makes grants in support of original research and education in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and economic performance.

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