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UM Physicist Named Alfred P. Sloan Fellow

By Edwin B. Smith

University of Mississippi

Leo Stein is the first University of Mississippi faculty member to receive a fellowship from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Submitted photo

Leo Stein, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Mississippi, joins a list of emerging leaders in research and STEM innovation as a member of the 2023 class of Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellows.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation announced this year’s fellowships on Wednesday (Feb. 15). The 126 early career researchers are drawn from a diverse range of 54 institutions across North America that also includes Ivy League institutions and small liberal arts colleges.

Stein and the other fellows receive a two-year, $75,000 fellowship to advance their research.

“It’s an honor to be selected as a fellow,” said Stein, who is the first Ole Miss faculty member to ever receive the prestigious fellowship. “The professional recognition also means a lot, knowing that other experts in the community think my research is promising, which is hard for folks in other fields to gauge.”

Stein said he will use the majority of his award to support a graduate student on an assistantship, so they can focus more on research without the teaching time commitment. The second-largest fraction of the funding is to support travel, to make sure the student and he can go to conferences to learn from others and to publicize their research to the rest of the community.

“I hope this conveys to physicists everywhere the high quality of work being done in our department, and I’m proud to contribute,” Stein said.

A renowned researcher of astronomy and black holes, Stein has co-authored articles that have been published in the peer-reviewed journal Physical Review Letters and has also received a Faculty Early Career Development Program award from the National Science Foundation.

“Gravitational wave astrophysics is one of the research areas in which our department is especially strong,” said Luca Bombelli, UM chair and professor of physics and astronomy. “Because of the presence of Dr. Stein, together with other faculty, postdocs and graduate students, we have one of the leading groups in the country.”

Keefe Mitman, a fourth-year doctoral student at California Institute of Technology who was first author on an article to be published in PRL later this month, said Stein “is by far one of the most gifted theorists that I have met.

“His understanding of the mathematics behind the physics that we examine is incredibly extensive and he seems to always have new and exciting theories to test.”

Stein joined UM in 2017 after serving as a senior postdoctoral researcher at the California Institute of Technology and as a NASA Einstein fellow at Cornell University. He holds a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received the Henry Kendall Teaching Award.

The nonprofit Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has awarded the fellowships annually since 1955. This year, more than 1,000 researches applied.

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