Northern Illinois University

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Gerard Awanou
Gerard Awanou

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News Release

Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-3635

February 24, 2009

NIU mathematics professor wins
prestigious Sloan Research Fellowship

DeKalb, Ill. — Northern Illinois University’s Gerard Awanou, an assistant professor of mathematical sciences, has won an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, one of the nation's most significant awards for promising young scientists and researchers.

“This is a major achievement and places Gerard in an elite group of young researchers,” said William Blair, chair of the NIU Department of Mathematical Sciences. “A Sloan is the most prestigious award that a young mathematician or scientist can win.”

Awanou is the first NIU faculty member to ever win the fellowship.

“In receiving a Sloan Fellowship, Dr. Awanou joins people like John Milnor, John Nash, Isadore Singer, Steve Smale, Avner Friedman, William Thurston, Karen Uhlenbeck and Vaughn Jones. These may not be household names, but among mathematicians, they are the very best and brightest,” said Christopher McCord, dean of the NIU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“They went on from their early accomplishments to become the most respected and influential mathematicians of their time,” he added. “We’re very proud to count Dr. Awanou among their ranks, and look forward to his future accomplishments.”

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation last week announced the selection of 118 outstanding early career researchers as its 2009 fellows. The winners are faculty members at 61 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada who are conducting research at the frontiers of science, economics and mathematics.

Grants of $50,000 for a two-year period are administered by each fellow’s institution. Once chosen, Sloan Research Fellows are free to pursue whatever lines of inquiry are of most interest to them, and they are permitted to use fellowship funds in a wide variety of ways to further their research aims. (For a complete list of winners, see www.sloan.org/fellowships/page/19.)

“The Sloan Research Fellowships support the work of exceptional young researchers early in their academic careers, and often at pivotal stages in their work,” said Paul L. Joskow, president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “I am proud of the foundation’s rich history in providing the resources and flexibility necessary for young researchers to enhance their scholarship.”

Selection procedures for the Sloan Research Fellowships are designed to identify those who show the most outstanding promise of making fundamental contributions to new knowledge.

Awanou grew up in the West African country of Benin. In 1998, he won a scholarship for talented young science and mathematics students from developing countries to the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy.

He later earned his Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Georgia and came to NIU in 2005, after spending two years as a post doctoral associate at the Institute for Mathematics and Its Applications at the University of Minnesota.

“I was hoping the Sloan Foundation would be interested in my research,” Awanou said. “This is an encouragement to keep up with the good work.”

Awanou’s research interests are primarily in the numerical analysis of partial differential equations.

“Mathematical modeling of physical phenomena has become the standard tool for the investigation of numerous problems in science and engineering,” he said. “But often the resulting equations do not have solutions that can be represented by simple mathematical formulas—hence the development and the analysis of numerical methods. These are methods to solve mathematical problems on a computer.”

The Sloan Research Fellowship comes on the heels of a $138,000 grant award that Awanou received last year from the National Science Foundation.

The Sloan Research Fellowships have been awarded since 1955. Since then, 38 Sloan Research Fellows have gone on to win the Nobel Prize in their fields; and 14 have received the Fields Medal, the top honor in mathematics.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is a philanthropic, not-for-profit grant making institution based in New York City. Established in 1934 by Alfred Pritchard Sloan, Jr., then-president and chief executive officer of the General Motors Corporation, the foundation makes grants in support of original research and education in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and economic performance. For more information, see www.sloan.org.

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