Vinayak Agarwal and Lutz Warnke are among 126 outstanding U.S. and Canadian researchers selected to receive the 2018 Sloan Research Fellowships. Awarded yearly by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the fellowships honor early-career faculty whose achievements mark them as among the very best scientific minds working today.
Also named 2018 Research Fellow is Bilal Haider, assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University.
Vinayak Agarwal is an assistant professor in School of Chemistry and Biochemistry. His research seeks to understand how natural products are produced, what biological forces drive their synthesis in nature, and how the knowledge can advance the well-being of humans. In particular, he is interested in the genesis of polybrominated compounds in ocean systems.
Agarwal seeks to understand how biosynthetic pathways manipulate halogens, especially bromine, to create polyhalogenated compounds, some of which are of great interest as anticancer agents. He has been at the forefront of efforts to decipher the routes for the natural production of polyhalogenated aromatic compounds by marine bacteria.
Just like synthetic chlorofluorocarbons, which are now banned because they destroy Earth’s protective ozone layer in the stratosphere, polybrominated compounds can generate halogen species that can deplete stratospheric ozone. Agarwal aims to establish the biogenic basis for oceanic bromine radical production from polybrominated compounds.
To gain a deep understanding of biosynthetic pathways, he combines chemical and biochemical approaches, including molecular biology, phylogenetic and bioinformatics analysis, microbial genetics and metagenomics, structural and biochemical enzymology, protein biochemistry, synthetic chemistry, and analytical chemistry.
“The brightest minds tackling the hardest problems, and succeeding brilliantly – Fellows are quite literally the future of 21st-century science.”
Lutz Warnke is an assistant professor in the School of Mathematics. His research area lies at the interface of discrete mathematics and probability theory. In particular, he has extensively studied various random graphs (or networks), focusing on phase transition phenomena and other fascinating properties.
In 2016, Warnke received the biennial Dénes König Prize from the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics for his contribution to the study of random graph processes. Because of Warnke’s work, theorems are now available to help mathematicians understand the behavior of a large class of discrete random graph processes close to phase transition.
Earlier, Warnke received the biennial 2014 Richard-Rado-Prize, for his outstanding dissertation in discrete mathematics, titled “Random Graph Processes with Dependencies.”
In announcing the prize, Jiri Matousek of Charles University Prague, said: “[Warnke’s] work has all the attributes one may expect from excellent mathematics: very interesting topics appealing to [a] broad audience, in this case to a community including many theoretical physicists; improved methods and new ideas that both solve old problems and new horizons; considerable depth, breadth, and technical difficulty; and last but not least, careful and accessible presentation.
“The Sloan Research Fellows represent the very best science has to offer,” said Sloan Foundation President Adam Falk. “The brightest minds tackling the hardest problems, and succeeding brilliantly – Fellows are quite literally the future of 21st-century science.”