Heising-Simons Faculty Fellows Program

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The Heising-Simons Faculty Fellows Program catalyzes scientific discovery by investing in high-risk, high-reward research directions. The Program supports exceptional faculty working on topics in a diverse set of fields, including astronomy, physics, geology and geophysics, materials sciences (in both physics and engineering), and physical and materials chemistry. Program awards will focus on creative and novel approaches that promise to lead to important scientific breakthroughs contributing to a greater understanding of the universe and its components, from the molecular and atomic to the geological and planetary scales, among other areas. Awards also fund the development of new tools, techniques and measurements that help probe these physical phenomena in new ways.

The Heising-Simons Faculty Fellows awards will be made to two UC Berkeley faculty members each year. Each $1M faculty award will be distributed over a period of five years. All early- and mid-career ladder-rank UC Berkeley faculty regardless of their home department are eligible to apply.

Please review the proposal guidelines and upload your application materials below. If you have questions about overall program parameters and guidelines, please consult our frequently asked questions. Please contact research@berkeley.edu with any additional questions you may have.

The application deadline for the 2024 cycle is February 5, 2024 at 5pm.

Please submit the following:

  1. Proposal (up to five pages with pages numbered, excluding references, CV, and budget). It should demonstrate how your proposed project is novel and how you would use the Heising-Simons Faculty Fellowship award to catalyze your proposed research. Your proposal should contain the following elements:
    • What is the key scientific or technical insight you seek to advance? What problem are you solving?
    • Briefly describe the current scientific landscape in this area. How will your proposed project make a unique contribution?
    • How is your lab/team uniquely qualified to advance this approach/technology?
    • What are the biggest challenges this project faces? How will you address them?
    • How will you use the support from the Heising-Simons Faculty Fellowship? Please explain your budget and timeline and describe additional existing and pending sources of funding, matching grants and gifts-in-kind relevant to your project.
  2. CV: Be sure to call out any special qualifications you may have that uniquely qualify you for this project. (3 pages max)
  3. Budget and Timeline: Please complete this budget and timeline template. Note that if you receive an award from the program, you may adjust the timeline/milestones and budget that you laid out in your original proposal at later stages. We expect that your original plans might change due to new advances in science and technology, changes in the research lab/team, etc. You will be asked to provide an updated timeline on an annual basis so that the review committee can understand and track your progress.
    • You do not need to deduct any overhead.
    • The application does not need to be reviewed by the Sponsored Projects Office

Proposal Submission

Applications should be submitted using this application form

Kwabena Bediako
Kwabena Bediako
Assistant Professor, Chemistry

Manipulating Electron Transfer with Twisted Interfaces
Project Description: Controlling how electrons are transported across interfaces is fundamental to both energy conversion and information storage. These interfacial electron transfer processes are notoriously inefficient, losing considerable amounts of energy to thermal dissipation. Bediako aims to tackle this problem by designing and fabricating materials that allow interfacial electron transfer processes to be finely tailored, efficiently directing electrons to drive useful chemical reactions at surfaces or to create new electronic states that encode information with minimal energy input. His overarching approach involves taking atomically thin crystals (so-called “two-dimensional” materials) and assembling them into multilayer bespoke architectures in which all aspects of the new heterostructure—even subtle twists between layers—are controlled to define the electronic makeup of the material and its interfacial/surface chemical reactivity. Bediako’s work, which combines materials synthesis, nanofabrication, electronic transport, and electrochemistry, will develop the fundamental knowledge needed to open new avenues for ultra-efficient electrochemical energy conversion and electronic devices.

Kwabena Bediako is an Assistant Professor of Chemistry. He received his B.S. from Calvin College in 2008, M.S. from MIT in 2013, and Ph.D. in Chemistry from Harvard University in 2015. He then performed postdoctoral research in the Department of Physics at Harvard University until joining the faculty at UC Berkeley in 2018. His research program lies at the interface of chemistry and physics, seeking to control the physics of solids and interfaces and leverage that insight to direct interfacial chemical reactivity, as well as to develop new materials synthesis and characterization methods that enable the realization, understanding, and control of exotic physics in solids.

Daniel Stolper
Daniel Stolper
Associate Professor, Earth & Planetary Science

A First-of-its-kind Paleohygrometer: 17O as a Proxy for Past Relative Humidity in Fossil Wood
Project Description: Relative humidity is a key climate variable that controls local landscape
form (e.g., desert vs. tropical). We currently have limited ways to reconstruct relative humidity
in the geological past. Stolper proposes here to create a novel geochemical proxy for the
reconstruction of past relative humidity (i.e., a ‘paleohygrometer’). It is based on the observation that when leaves photosynthesize, water evaporates from the leaf to the atmosphere. This evaporation leaves a telltale signature in the stable triple oxygen isotopic composition of the remaining water ( 16 O, 17 O, and 18 O; note 17 O and 18 O were both originally discovered at Berkeley). Although plant water is not preserved in the geologic record, sugars biosynthesized in leaves that go on to form cellulose (a key component of wood) do preserve this isotopic signature. Stolper proposes to develop a new method to reconstruct the triple oxygen isotopic composition of ancient leaf water using cellulose as a proxy. He will develop the methodology, calibrate it, and then use it to reconstruct relative humidity in the geologic past during times of both colder and warmer climate states.

Daniel Stolper is an Associate Professor in the Department of Earth & Planetary Science and a faculty scientist in the Earth & Environmental Sciences Area at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He received his A.B. from Harvard, Ph.D. from Caltech, and was a postdoc at Princeton prior to coming to Berkeley in 2017. His work focuses on the measurement of the stable isotopic composition of environmental and experimental materials to reconstruct past climate and the cycling of carbon and oxygen. He has a particular interest in developing new geochemical methodologies to answer questions in Earth science.

Felix R. Fischer
Felix R. Fischer
Associate Professor, Chemistry

Symmetry Breaking a Path to Engineer Strongly Correlated Phases in Quantum Materials
Project Description: The distinguishing characteristic of strongly correlated phases of matter is that the behavior of their constituent electrons can no longer be described by a model of independent non-interaction particles reminiscent of the atoms or molecules in a gas. Some of the most exciting quantum phenomena in strongly correlated phases emerge when pairs or subsets of electrons behave like a coherent swarm bound by subtle attractive interactions. Rather than relying on scarce and preciously rare intrinsic materials properties, Fischer advances a rational design and modern bottom-up manufacturing technique that imbues otherwise unremarkable materials with just the right electronic structure that gives rise to electron-electron correlation. Besides expanding our understanding of fundamental principles, access to custom tailored 1D quantum phases guides the path to transformative advancements that could become the basis for stronger, yet more compact magnets, new schemes for low-power, portable electronic devices, quantum sensors, accelerated data processing systems, and more efficient energy generation, transduction, and conversion technologies.

Felix Fischer holds an appointment as Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry at UC Berkeley. He is a Faculty Scientist in the Materials Sciences Division at LBNL, and a member of the Kavli Energy Nanosciences Institute. He received his undergraduate degree in Chemistry from the Ruperto-Carola University, Heidelberg and earned his Ph.D. in Physical Organic Chemistry at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich. Before joining the faculty at UC Berkeley in 2011 Fischer held a position as Leopoldina Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Chemistry at Columbia University, New York.

Jie Yao
Jie Yao
Associate Professor, Materials Science and Engineering

Twisting the Photons
Project Description: The double helix of DNA molecules and vortexes in the interstellar medium are both examples of chiral structures. Such chiral structures lead to unique interactions with photons, which send us valuable information from either the microscopic world or deep space. Jie aims to develop “twist optics” by introducing the twist degree of freedom in photonic systems and explore the fundamental physics associated with the new topology. By combining novel material growth methods with advanced optical probes, Jie proposes to investigate the effects of chiral structures and moiré patterns of materials on the fundamental aspects of photons, such as their photonic density of states, tunable soliton modes and Cherenkov radiation. Such an approach not only offers novel forms of tunability and controllability of photons, but also adds a new dimension in the creation and detection of photons with different topologies. New understandings obtained in this emerging field will push the boundaries of our knowledge and enable applications in optical communications, astrophysics and quantum information science.

Jie Yao joined the faculty at UC Berkeley in 2013 and is now an Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering. He received his B.S. from Nanjing University. After getting a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley, he conducted postdoctoral research at Stanford University. His major research interest is in the fundamental understanding of the interactions between light and matter and the application of those principles to guide the design of novel optical materials and artificial photonic structures such as metamaterials and photonic crystals. He is particularly interested in exploring dimensionality and new degrees of freedom of materials to better control the generation, propagation and detection of photons.

James Analytis
James Analytis
Associate Professor, Physics

Using Spintronics to Understand and Control High-Temperature Superconductivity
Project Description: In high-Tc superconductors it is thought that the origin of superconductivity is connected to the emergence of spinful objects known as paramagnons. These objects are inseparable from the electrons that form the superconducting condensate itself, and in many ways this is what has made question of the origin of high Tc such an intractable problem. James Analytis suggests a way to find smoking-gun evidence for this mechanism by leveraging techniques that have emerged in the field of spintronics. Along the way he answers two connected questions, both at the forefront of condensed matter research, both with potentially transformative technological impact. (i) How does spin become fractionalized from its charge, and how do we measure the emergent quantum numbers that correctly characterize this state? (ii) How do we leverage this knowledge in order to drive new superconducting states, and if possible increase the transition temperature?

James Analytis joined the faculty at the University of California at Berkeley in January 2013 as the Charles Kittel Chair in condensed matter physics. He received his B.Sc. in physics from Canterbury University in 2001 and his D. Phil. from the University of Oxford. He primarily studies the physics of unconventional superconductors and their relationship to quantum critical points, as well as spin liquids and frustrated magnets.

Ke Xu
Ke Xu
Associate Professor, Chemistry

Single-Molecule Electrophoresis Microscopy
Project Description: Driven far away from equilibrium, the local physicochemical parameters inside a cell vary greatly over short length scales, thus dictating cell functions at a fundamental level. Ke's research aims to unveil the hidden order and physical rules that govern the dynamic interactions between (bio)molecules inside the cell with ultimate sensitivity, spatiotemporal resolution, and functionality. He proposes the creation and application of new microscopy-spectroscopy tools that will uniquely enable the direct visualization and quantification of biomolecule charge states and interactions both in vitro and in living cells at the single-molecule and super-resolution levels. Towards this goal, he is integrating single-molecule spectroscopy, micro/nano-fabrication, and electrokinetics to manipulate and quantify the transient motions of millions of unbound single molecules under the external stimulus. By thus enabling the sub-diffraction-limit spatiotemporal mapping of biomolecule states and interactions, this work will open a new door toward understanding the physical rules that underlie the complex behavior of the cell.

Ke Xu is an associate professor of Chemistry. He received his B.S. from Tsinghua University and Ph.D. from Caltech, and performed postdoctoral research at Harvard University before joining UC Berkeley in 2013. His current research develops new physicochemical tools to interrogate biological, chemical, and materials systems at the nanoscale with extraordinary resolution, sensitivity, and functionality. To this end, his lab takes a multidimensional approach that integrates advanced microscopy, spectroscopy, nanotechnology, and cell biology. Ke has been named a Packard Fellow for Science and Engineering, a Sloan Research Fellow, a Beckman Young Investigator, a Pew Biomedical Scholar, and the C&EN Talented 12.

Kristie A. Boering
Kristie A. Boering

Kristie A. Boering is a faculty member in the Departments of Chemistry and of Earth and Planetary Science. She also serves as a Faculty Scientist in the Earth Sciences Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. She was elected to the National Academy of Science in 2018. Through atmospheric observations, computer modeling, and laboratory experiments she studies the interactions between atmospheric chemistry and climate on Earth, from billions of years ago to predictions for the future. 

Eugene Chiang
Eugene Chiang

Eugene Chiang is a professor of Astronomy in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. His research focuses on theoretical astrophysics, with an emphasis on understanding the origin of planetary systems, as well as protoplanetary disks; extrasolar planets; debris disks, including the Kuiper belt; planetesimal and planet formation.

Michael Crommie
Michael Crommie

Michael Crommie is a professor in the Department of Physics. His main research interest is in exploring the local electronic properties of atomic-scale structures at surfaces. He is also interested in studying how local interactions between atomic-scale structures affect the morphology and dynamics of mesoscopic systems. His main experimental tool is the ultra-high vacuum cryogenic scanning tunnelling microscope, which can be used to both fabricate atomic-scale structures and probe them spectroscopically.

John Hartwig
John Hartwig

John Hartwig focuses on the discovery and understanding of new reactions of organic compounds catalyzed by transition metal complexes and artificial metalloenzymes. These findings result from a combination of organic synthesis, organometallic synthesis, protein design and evolution, and mechanistic analysis of catalytic systems.

Kevin E. Healy
Kevin E. Healy

Kevin E. Healy is the Jan Fandrianto and Selfia Halim Distinguished Professor in Engineering at UC Berkeley in the Departments of Bioengineering, and Materials Science and Engineering. He is a thought leader and innovator working at the interface between stem cells and materials science to develop dynamic engineered systems to explore both fundamental biological phenomena and new applications in translational medicine. He is an elected Fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and recently received an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Award. 

Barbara Jacak
Barbara Jacak

Barbara Jacak is a professor in the Department of Physics. Jacak is one of the leaders of the nuclear physics community in the United States. Her research focuses on experimental study of quark gluon plasma; this plasma is formed in relativistic heavy ion collisions where nuclei are heated to trillions of degrees and quarks are no longer confined in hadrons. The experiments are done at Brookhaven National Lab’s RHIC and at CERN.

Ting Xu
Ting Xu

Ting Xu  is a professor in the Department of Material Sciences and Engineering, Department of Chemistry and UCSF-Berkeley Joint Bioengineering Group. She is also a faculty scientist in the Materials Sciences Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Her research focuses on generating hierarchical functional soft materials using synthetic polymers, peptides, proteins, small organic molecules and nanoparticles as building blocks.

What is the Heising-Simons Faculty Fellows Program?

The Heising-Simons Faculty Fellows Program catalyzes scientific discovery by investing in high-risk, high-reward research directions. The Program supports exceptional faculty working on topics in a diverse set of fields, including astronomy, physics, geology and geophysics, materials sciences (in both physics and engineering), and physical and materials chemistry. Program awards will focus on creative and novel approaches that promise to lead to important scientific breakthroughs contributing to a greater understanding of the universe and its components, from the molecular and atomic to the geological and planetary scales, among other areas. Awards also fund the development of new tools, techniques and measurements that help probe these physical phenomena in new ways.

How are Fellows selected?

Awards will be made by a Selection Committee comprised of several distinguished University of California, Berkeley faculty in the relevant fields. No member of the Selection Committee may be considered for an award from the Heising-Simons Faculty Fellows Program, but the Committee may include past Fellows. The Committee will convene each spring to review proposals and select two new Fellows. 

How do I apply for a Heising-Simons Fellows award? 

Each fall, UC Berkeley faculty will be invited to submit proposals to be considered as Fellows. To apply, please complete the  Fellows application here. Your proposal does not need to be reviewed by the Sponsored Projects Office.

What are the eligibility requirements?

Those eligible for selection are early- and mid-career ladder-rank faculty (defined, respectively, as Assistant and Associate Professors at the time of application) who propose research in the specified fields. All early and mid-career faculty are eligible to apply, regardless of their home department. Criteria for selection will emphasize the potential of the candidate’s work to push the boundaries of current knowledge and have future impact on a fundamental research problem, an investigator’s creativity, the importance and originality of the proposed research, as well as the track record of the candidate. Eligible faculty who reflect the University’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion are strongly encouraged to apply. 

What is the award amount and frequency?

The Selection Committee will select two Fellows each year. Each Fellow will receive $1,000,000 over a term of five years, or $200,000 per year.

How can the award be used?

Funding may be used at the discretion of each Fellow to support undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral investigators, purchase equipment and supplies and/or other scholarly and research support that advances a Fellow’s proposed project.

Can awards be made to teams of UC Berkeley researchers?

While these awards are intended to support individual faculty, up to 2 co-PIs can apply for one award. The selection committee will expect that both PIs will contribute similar effort to the proposed project. The general eligibility requirements apply to both PIs.

What is expected from the Heising-Simons Faculty Fellows?

Once selected for an award, Heising-Simons Fellows are expected to provide annual progress updates.

When is the application deadline?

The application deadline for the 2024 cohort is February 5, 2023. 

When does support start?

Support for these awards begins on July 1.