UChicago physicist William Irvine selected for inaugural Brown Investigator Award

March 8, 2021

Award recognizes curiosity-driven basic research in chemistry and physics

The Brown Science Foundation today announced physicists David Hsieh of Caltech and William Irvine of the University of Chicago as recipients of the inaugural Brown Investigator Award. The award, which recognizes curiosity-driven basic research in chemistry and physics, supports the investigators’ research with $2 million over five years to their respective universities. Hsieh and Irvine were nominated by their institutions and chosen from a candidate pool of mid-career scientists at 10 top-rated research universities.

“Even among a strong group of candidates, Hsieh and Irvine stood out for their scientific vision and willingness to take risk,” said Marc Kastner, senior science advisor for the Science Philanthropy Alliance and chairman of the foundation’s scientific advisory board, which selected the winners. “They’re clear examples of America’s reservoir of mid-career scientists with the proven track record and restless minds needed to advance daring ideas.”    

The Brown Science Foundation, an Alliance member, is dedicated to the belief that scientific discovery is a driving force in the improvement of the human condition. Established in 1992 by Ross M. Brown, the foundation announced its invitation-only Brown Investigator Award program in 2020 with plans to make eight awards annually by 2025. The program supports the often-overlooked resource of mid-career physics and chemistry researchers in the U.S.

William Irvine

Irvine, who researches fundamental problems in fluid dynamics and condensed matter, is eager to get started: “I am humbled and grateful to be among the first recipients of this prestigious award which recognizes mid-career work, and am excited to dive into new directions, starting with turbulence—the ubiquitous phenomenon by which a smooth fluid flow breaks up into smaller and smaller vortices."

“The Brown Investigator Award is a welcome addition to the science funding ecosystem,” said Lynn Orr, Beal Professor Emeritus at Stanford University and a member of the panel that recommends selections for the David and Lucile Packard Foundation’s Fellowships in Science and Engineering. “Its focus on curiosity-driven basic research in the physical sciences and mid-career investigators fills an important, under-funded space. Putting unrestricted research resources in the hands of truly creative investigators is certain to yield benefits that leverage the talents of students in their research groups and move the science in important new directions.”

This article is an adaptation of a press release issued by the Science Philanthropy Alliance.

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