CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Three University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign professors have been awarded 2022 Guggenheim Fellowships.
This year’s scholarship recipients are dance teacher Cynthia Oliver and chemistry teachers So Hirata and Prashant Jain.
They are among 180 artists, writers, scholars and scientists who were chosen after a rigorous peer review process from nearly 2,500 applicants, according to the press release from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. .
Oliver is an award-winning choreographer and performer and Associate Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation in the Humanities, Arts and Related Fields. In 2021, she was named Artist Doris Duke and received an Artist Fellowship from the United States. She is a professor at the Center for Advanced Study and a 2011 University Fellow, and she received a New York Dance and Performance (Bessie) Award for choreography and a Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography Mellon Fellowship in 2016.
Oliver’s work incorporates Caribbean, African and American influences. It explores the intersection between contemporary dance, feminism, black popular culture and expressive performances from the African diaspora. His most recent one-night performance, “Virago-Man Dem,” examined the concept of masculinity in Caribbean and African-American cultures. It premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s “Next Wave” festival in 2017 and toured the country, including a performance at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. She is also the author of “Queen of the Virgins: Apparatry and Black Womanhood in the Caribbean”.
Oliver said she would use her scholarship to work on a book project about black artists’ involvement in avant-garde and postmodern dance and experimental work. “Circling Black, Circling Back” will be an experimental memoir that will help expand dance history and theory and address the lack of writing of choreographers of color and their influence on the field of dance. The title of the book refers to a characteristic choreographic strategy that distinguishes his work.
“Circularity and repetition are Africanist values that are historical anchors of the black ceremonial congregation and are used to recall and bring about altered states – as in possession, ritual and transformational practices. In my choreography, I use both a postmodern and experimental way, insofar as with each return to a movement, a phrase, a motif, what we have seen is now somewhat different. The architecture of the book will reflect the above strategies of my choreographic method, a return to the points of origin and an acknowledgment of the dance lineages from which I come,” said Oliver.
Hirata is the Marvin T. Schmidt Professor of Chemistry and the Blue Waters Professor. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and an Elected Fellow of the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Sciences. He received the Illinois School of Chemical Sciences Teaching Award in 2017 and has been the recipient of the National Science Foundation CAREER Award, the Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, the Hewlett-Packard Outstanding Junior Faculty Award, and the annual medal of the International Academy of Quantum Molecular. Science, one of the most prestigious international awards for quantum chemists under 40. He is one of the authors of the US Department of Energy’s award-winning NWChem computational chemistry software, distributed at more than 2,800 sites worldwide.
Hirata and his research team push the boundaries of quantitative theories and computer technology to interpret and predict the properties of molecules, polymers, solids and liquids. It develops computational methods and algorithms to make the fundamental equations of motion of chemistry, which are high-dimensional partial differential equations with complex boundary conditions, tractable for numerical solutions.
One aspect of Hirata’s work focuses on fundamental aspects of quantum many-body theories for electrons and nuclei in molecules and solids. He said he plans to use the award to further extend these theories to coupled electronuclear motions, including those underlying superconductivity.
“Much of physics is based on Richard Feynman’s schematic methods, which ultimately appeal to human intuition,” Hirata said. “There is a rigorous theoretical justification based on time-dependent perturbation theory, but it is not a constructive theory in that no one has been able to use it for actual numerical calculations of the theory of the one-particle Green’s function or finite-temperature perturbation theory at high-temperature orders, where human intuitions begin to fail. We have discovered a general and reliable algebraic method for formulating these theories, which even a computer can understand so that it can perform their numerical calculations at any arbitrary higher order.
Jain runs a lab researching nanoscale light-matter interactions, including using focused photons for artificial photosynthesis, inducing emergent chemical reactivity, and probing the molecular-level functioning of catalysts. Jain is acclaimed for his teaching of physical chemistry, having won the School of Chemical Sciences Faculty of Chemical Science Teaching Award and recognition in the Excellent Teachers List nearly a dozen times. He is affiliated with the Materials Research Laboratory, Department of Physics, Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, and Illinois Quantum Information Science and Technology Center. He is currently a member of the IDA/DARPA Defense Science Study Group.
Jain is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, Beilby Medalist, Leo Hendrik Baekeland Medalist, recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering, alumni Research Scholar, Richard Fellow and Margaret Romano Professorial Scholar, IC Gunsalus Fellow, 2015 National Science Foundation CAREER Award Recipient, 2014 Alfred P. Sloan Fellow, MIT TR35 Inventor, Center for Advanced Study Beckman Fellow, and CAS Fellow. His research has been cited over 27,000 times and he has been recognized as a Highly Cited Researcher by Clarivate Analytics and Elsevier Scopus.
Jain said the fellowship will allow him to take a page from nature and develop new concepts, theories and materials to capture solar radiation and store it in the form of energetic chemical carriers that could be moved and used on demand to generate energy and make green energy. chemicals such as ammonia. A key strategy will involve nanoscale optical antennae coupled with catalysts that direct the cleavage and formation of the desired chemical bonds.
“Biology has mastered the use of light as a source of free energy and for the creation of dissipative structures. Shouldn’t synthetic systems, bound by the same laws of thermodynamics and quantum mechanics, be able to perform a similar function? But before we reach the ultimate limit of light harvesting and control, we may still have many design principles to discover. The prospect of such discoveries is what drives our work,” Jain said.