Seven Faculty Lead in Young Investigator Honors

Photograph: Raimundo Betti.
Photograph: Paul Glasserman.
Photograph: David Horne.
Photograph: Lorenzo Polvani.
Photograph: Anna Marie Pyle.
Photograph: Kenneth Ross.

Seven Columbia faculty members have received the National Science Foundation's National Young Investigator (NYI) Awards for 1994. The number ranked Columbia second in the nation and first in the Ivy League.

Only UC-Berkeley, with nine, counted more recipients this year. Columbia's seven constituted one third of all awards made to faculty in the eight Ivy League institutions.

"We have a number of young faculty undertaking advanced research in several very exciting fields, and that's why Columbia did so well," said Vice Provost Michael Crow.

The new Columbia awardees, in a variety of science and engineering disciplines, were among 197 announced recently. They are:

The program provides $100,000 in public and private funds each year for five years to advance the teaching and research careers of young faculty members and researchers. Awardees receive a base of $25,000 from the NSF each year and up to $37,500 that they can use to match funds from private sources.

Betti is developing ways to retrofit bridges to make them more resistant to heavy vibrations, such as those produced by earthquakes, strong winds or heavy traffic. He is also developing automated detection techniques that will signal when bridge structures are damaged, and is studying new materials to repair corroded bridge cables.

He received the baccalaureate from the University of Rome and the Ph.D. from the University of Southern California, both in civil engineering.

Betti joined the Columbia faculty in 1991.

Glasserman is developing efficient methods to control inventories and to analyze a firm's performance in inventory control. Adopting such methods can lower inventory costs and permit more rapid delivery of final products.

Glasserman has created mathematical models of multistage inventory systems that allow for demand uncertainty and production variability, and has also created computer simulations of these complex systems.

He received the A.B. in mathematics from Princeton and the Ph.D. in applied sciences from Harvard.

He joined the Columbia faculty in 1991.

Horne has synthesized a number of bioactive compounds from marine sponges, including substances with anti-hypertensive, anti-cancer or anti-viral activity, to make them available to medical researchers.

He is also studying interactions between RNA, the body's genetic messenger, and proteins, an area about which little is known. He received the B.S. and M.S. degrees in chemistry from UCLA. and the Ph.D. in organic chemistry from MIT.

Horne joined the Columbia faculty in 1991.

Polvani studies the fluid dynamics of Earth's atmosphere and that of other major planets in the solar system.

He has used mathematical models to understand the Polar Night Vortex, an intense jet-like flow of air that develops in the polar region of the winter stratosphere and is closely associated with ozone depletion.

Polvani has also developed theories that explain Neptune's great dark spot, Saturn's ribbon wave and other vortices in planetary atmospheres.

He received the B.Sc. and M.Sc. in physics from McGill University and the Ph.D. from the joint MIT-Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution program in physical oceanography.

He joined the Columbia faculty in 1990.

Pyle is exploring a new field created when scientists found that RNA molecules could catalyze chemical reactions. Such enzymes made up of RNA molecules are termed "ribozymes."

Her laboratory is attempting to determine the means by which RNA folds into catalytically active structures.

Toward this goal, she is studying reaction mechanisms and the three-dimensional architecture of certain catalytic introns, the noncoding portions of RNA.

She received the B.A. from Princeton and the Ph.D. from Columbia, both in chemistry.

He joined the Columbia faculty in 1992.

Rosshas developed new logical approaches--also known as query languages--that allow computer users to frame complex questions to a computer without specifying to the system how it should find the answers.

Computer scientists call the approach "declarative," in that users declare what information they are seeking.

He received the B.S. in mathematics and computer science from the University of Melbourne and the Ph.D. in computer science from Stanford.

Ross joined the Columbia faculty in 1991.

In his early work, Weitsman concentrated on mathematical physics, particularly quantum field theory, and later made significant contributions to simplectic geometry.

He is on leave for the academic year 1994-95 at UC-Santa Cruz. He received the B.S. in mathematics and the B.S. in physics from M.I.T. and the Ph.D. from Harvard.

He joined the Columbia faculty in 1992.

Columbia University Record -- January 20, 1995 -- Vol. 20, No. 13