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Five University of California, Irvine assistant professors have received 2020-21 Hellman Fellowships, which help promising junior faculty across a variety of disciplines realize their scientific and academic potential. They join an elite group of 63 UCI Hellman Fellows since 2013, when the campus program was established with a gift of $1.25 million from the Hellman Family Foundation.

The 2020-21 awardees, who will each receive up to $50,000, are:

  • Elizabeth Bess, assistant professor of chemistry, who will study the secrets of what makes vegetables and whole grains important for good health. The key to unlocking this mystery is the beneficial bacteria living in peoples’ guts – the human gut microbe.
  • Sameer Singh, assistant professor of computer science, who will develop methods that provide intuitive explanations for why a machine learning algorithm, which is so complex, made a certain prediction.
  • J. Zoe Klemfuss, assistant professor of psychological science, who will identify effective techniques for building rapport with suspected child maltreatment victims to encourage disclosure and elicit complete and accurate reports.
  • Lindsay Gilmour, assistant professor of dance, for her proposal, who will explore Tibetan ritual dance in monasteries and nunneries in Ladakh and Tibetan exile settlements in India, focusing on how ancient rituals survive exile and modernization, as well as how the roles of women and traditional cultures evolve and develop within those frameworks; and
  • Jenna Riis, assistant professor of psychological science, for her proposal, who will identify and validate biologic and self-report measures of oral health that could be used by researchers and clinicians to address oral, physical and emotional health disparities and improve the integration and quality of healthcare.

“These worthy recipients are some of the best talent within our junior faculty,” said Diane O’Dowd, vice provost for academic personnel and professor of developmental & cell biology. “Through the generosity of the Hellman Fellows Fund, we are able to support their  innovative work that will make a real impact on our community and the world, as UCI continues to thrive as an environment for research excellence.”

Chris and Warren Hellman began providing early-career funding to junior faculty at UC campuses and four private institutions in 1994. Since then, more than 1,900 individuals have been recipients. The grants may be used for such research purposes as equipment, travel, photography and graduate assistants.

Originally published at UCI News.