Awarded annually since 1955 by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the fellowship honors outstanding early-career researchers from the United States and Canada whose creativity, innovation, and research accomplishments show exceptional promise in the next generation of scientists. Open to scholars in seven scientific and technical fields—chemistry, computer science, Earth system science, economics, mathematics, neuroscience, and physics—the fellowship is accompanied by a two-year, $75,000 financial award to advance the researcher's work.
Zhuang focuses on algebraic geometry, which is a branch of mathematics that studies algebraic varieties, or the geometric manifestations of solutions of systems of polynomial equations. He hopes to continue to research and visit collaborators with the fellowship funds, as his collaborations have already led to fundamental contributions in mathematics, most recently in the understanding of the K-stability theory of Fano varieties, an emerging field in algebraic geometry.
"I feel very honored and excited to be selected as a Sloan Fellow," Zhuang says. "It is not only an important source of funding for me to start my career, but also a strong community support and recognition of my research work."
That community support began with Chenyang Xu, who nominated Zhuang for the fellowship. Xu says that when he first met Zhuang at Peking University, where Xu was a professor and Zhuang was an undergraduate student, he was immediately impressed with Zhuang's mathematical talent. The two reconnected later, when Xu was teaching at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Zhuang joined the department as an early-career instructor following the completion of his PhD.
"To nominate Ziquan for the Sloan Research Fellowship is a no-brainer," Xu says. "He is a star in algebraic geometry. Besides his amazing talent in math, he is also a thoughtful person with a special kind of humor."
Zhuang's proof, jointly with fellow researchers Xu and Yuchen Liu, completed the last major missing puzzle piece of the K-stability theory at its current stage, providing insight on the higher rank finite generation theorem and solving several questions related to the theory—Xu calls it a "milestone of the field." Together with Hamid Abban, Zhuang also initiated a method to verify K-stability for explicit Fano varieties, called the Abban-Zhuang method, which is used by dozens of researchers across the international mathematical community.
Zhuang is currently on leave as a visiting research fellow at Princeton University, where he is using the opportunity to deepen his own research by meeting and working with the mathematicians at Princeton.
"I'm sure the inspirations I gain at Princeton will continue as I move back to Hopkins," Zhuang says.