Three Johns Hopkins scientists selected for Sloan Research Fellowship

Award recognizes young researchers for contributions to their fields

A theoretical physicist, a computer scientist, and a solid-state chemist at the Johns Hopkins University are 2014 recipients of the Sloan Research Fellowship, given annually to young scientists showing promise in their research areas.

Image caption: Jared Kaplan, Ben Langmead, and Tyrel McQueen

The awardees are Jared Kaplan, assistant professor of particle physics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the university's Krieger School of Arts and Sciences; Tyrel McQueen, assistant professor of chemistry with an expertise in solid state materials in the Department of Chemistry, also in the Krieger School; and Benjamin Langmead, assistant professor of computer science specializing in computational biology and medicine in the Department of Computer Science in the Whiting School of Engineering.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation awards 126 two-year fellowships each year to young researchers in recognition of distinguished performance and unique potential to make substantial contributions to their fields. The award is $50,000 for the two-year period. Winners are nominated by a department chair or senior researcher.

Kaplan said the award dollars will help fund post-doctoral students working with him at Johns Hopkins and also allow him to collaborate with fellow researchers across the country.

"I'm grateful for the validation of my research," Kaplan said. "This is particularly encouraging because I've chosen to work on a somewhat unusual range of topics, from quantum gravity to collider physics to the study of materials exhibiting strange new phases of matter. I feel extremely lucky because I am able to consider whichever questions strike me as interesting, promising, or important."

Kaplan came to Johns Hopkins in 2013 from a postdoctoral position at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford University. He received his bachelor's in physics and math from Stanford in 2005 and his Ph.D. in physics from Harvard in 2009.

McQueen said he's thrilled to receive the recognition and pleased that the "non-directed nature of the funds gives me the flexibility to follow my instincts and explore the most interesting scientific questions in solid-state materials chemistry."

McQueen was a post-doctoral research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before coming to Johns Hopkins in 2010. He received his bachelors's degree in chemistry from Harvey Mudd College in 2004 and his Ph.D. degree in chemistry from Princeton in 2009.

Langmead said he appreciated the support of the Sloan Foundation and is excited about the new directions his lab can go in because of the award.

"In my lab, we focus on making large life science datasets easy for everyday researchers to use," Langmead said. "The fellowship allows us to pursue new research priorities related to analysis of DNA sequencing data. Specifically, we will study new ways of enhancing the accuracy of common sequence analysis tools. We will also study ways of making it easy to analyze many publicly available sequencing datasets at once. Progress in these areas will allow scientists to marshal more data and more statistical power in their study of biology and disease."

Langmead was a research associate for three years in the Department of Biostatistics at Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health before becoming an assistant professor in 2012. He received his M.Sc. and Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Maryland College Park in 2009 and 2012, respectively.