By Jessica Alfrey
Ohio University researcher Douglas Clowe has earned an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship, a highly competitive award intended to enhance the careers of the very best young faculty members working in seven fields of science in the United States and Canada.
An assistant professor of physics and astronomy in his second year with Ohio University, Clowe will use the $50,000 fellowship to further his work on gravitational lensing, a technique used to study massive structures such as clusters of galaxies. His research goals include determining the nature of dark matter and dark energy and measuring the structural evolution of clusters of galaxies and related objects.
While a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Arizona at Tucson, Clowe and his colleagues found the most direct evidence yet of dark matter, the invisible substance thought to make up 80 percent of the universe. The team made headlines around the world with the finding, which Discover magazine ranked as the No. 3 science finding of 2006.
The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation this year gave 118 awards totaling $5.9 million to faculty members in seven fields: chemistry, computational and evolutionary molecular biology, computer science, economics, mathematics, neuroscience and physics. The recipients, representing 64 institutions, were chosen from 600 nominees recommended by department heads and senior researchers.
Sloan Fellows have a long history of excellence. Since 1955, when the program began, 35 have gone on to earn Nobel Prizes, 14 have received the Fields Medal (the highest honor in mathematics) and more than half of the economics fellows have won one of the highest honors in their field, the John Bates Clark Medal.
"This fellowship will allow me to bring in more grant money, have more students and bring in my own postdoctoral workers," Clowe said. "We'll be able to produce more scientific research that will enhance the name of Ohio University and will attract more people to come and give talks on campus."
Clowe earned his bachelor's degree in physics from the California Institute of Technology and his master's and doctoral degrees in astronomy from the University of Hawaii. He completed postdoctoral research at the University of Bonn and the Max Planck Institute in Germany as well as at the University of Arizona.
At Ohio University, Clowe has taught two undergraduate courses, Survey of Astronomy and Introduction to Astrophysics, and a graduate seminar on dark energy and methods to measure it. He also serves as a thesis adviser and involves students in his research endeavors.
Professor of Physics and Astronomy Thomas Statler, director of the university's Astrophysical Institute, said Clowe's research provides significant new insight into what makes up the universe.
"Doug is regarded as one of the bright, shining, young stars," Statler said. "He's producing some terrific results. He understands his science (and) is first rate, and people are recognizing that. There aren't a lot of people of that caliber, and we are very delighted to have him."
Joseph Shields, chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, agrees. He nominated Clowe for the Sloan Fellowship.
"It speaks to the outstanding quality of the faculty we've been recruiting in recent years," Shields said of Clowe's award. "Ohio University's Department of Physics and Astronomy is now in ever greater ways competitive with institutions around the nation and the world. This is a very high-visibility award that is an indication of the strengths and quality of our faculty and staff."