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CLAS Faculty Among Eight UConn NSF CAREER Award Winners

Michael Hren, assistant professor of integrative geoscience, outside of Charles Lewis Beach Hall on April 19, 2013. (Ariel Dowski/UConn Photo)

Michael Hren, assistant professor of chemistry and integrative geosciences. (Ariel Dowski/UConn Photo)


Three early-career researchers in chemistry, marine sciences, and mathematics in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences were among eight UConn faculty to earn highly-selective National Science Foundation Early Career Development (CAREER) Awards this spring.

The five-year, NSF-wide grants support promising faculty early in their academic careers to serve as academic role models in research and education, with the goal of building a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in education and research.

Assistant Professor of Chemistry Michael Hren will receive $506,340 for his project, titled “Organic Molecular Paleohypsometry: A new approach to quantifying the topographic history of the most rapidly eroding mountain belt on Earth.”

This project will develop a new tool to quantify changes in mountain height over time, based on the isotopic makeup of water and organic matter at different elevations. The method is being tested, refined, and applied in Taiwan, one of the fastest uplifting and eroding regions of the globe. The method will include sampling of modern river waters, soils, and sediments from across the island state. The tool will have implications for geophysics, the oil and gas industry, and studies of surface change. The research will also develop new international collaborations between scientists in the U.S. and Taiwan.

Hren and his colleagues will integrate their work into the Connecticut State Science Standards through the creation of a new STEM education outreach collaboration with Hartford-area STEM magnet schools. Students will visit UConn’s Storrs campus to participate in geoscience research on rivers and soils.

Kelly Lombardo, assistant professor of marine sciences at the UConn Avery Point campus, on May 21, 2018. (Bri Diaz/UConn Photo)

Kelly Lombardo, assistant professor of marine sciences at the UConn Avery Point campus. (Bri Diaz/UConn Photo)

Assistant Professor of Marine Sciences Kelly Lombardo was awarded $583,701 for her project, titled “The Response of Coastal Squall Line Dynamics to Climate Change.”

The project will quantify the impact of a changing climate on severe thunderstorms over the eastern U.S. coastal region. In particular, the work will emphasize squall lines, or lines of thunderstorms along the edge of a cold front, which can account for a third of all severe weather over the coastal Northeast. The population density of the northeastern U.S. creates a condition for great societal impact from these severe storms. Based on global circulation models that project an increase in U.S. summertime severe storm activity, this work will combine existing climate scenario data and modeling techniques.

In addition to the training of undergraduate and graduate students, Lombardo’s research includes a component of public outreach and education on the role of statistical probability in weather forecasts and climate simulations.

Assistant Professor of Mathematics Liang Xiao has been awarded $107,472 for his project on number theory, titled “Slopes of p-adic Modular Forms.”

Liang Xiao, assistant professor of mathematics, at the Monteith Building on May 15, 2018. (Bri Diaz/UConn Photo)

Liang Xiao, assistant professor of mathematics. (Bri Diaz/UConn Photo)


Xiao’s work will attempt to expand on and potentially solve several mathematical problems surrounding p-adic numbers. These numbers were introduced in the 20th century to capture congruence relationships among integers. Two integers are considered “close together” if their difference is divisible by a high power of p, a prime number. This relationship has been proved to be a powerful tool in number theory.  Xiao will study several number theory questions related to p-adic numbers, including the potential to solve recent conjectures.

Xiao and his colleagues will also organize Connecticut Summer Schools in Number Theory for advanced undergraduate students and beginning graduate students to introduce them to topics in contemporary number theory, including the p-adic numbers.

The other 2018 NSF CAREER award recipients from UConn are:

  • Ali Bazzi, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering
  • Xu Chen, assistant professor of mechanical engineering
  • Mohammad Khan, assistant professor of computer science and engineering
  • Julian Norato, assistant professor of mechanical engineering
  • Kristina Wagstrom, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering


Read more on UConn Today.


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