Two Eccellenza Grants and a Professorial Fellowship to SB scientists

Juhan Aru, Mitali Banerjee, and Richard I. Anderson (credit: EPFL; Anderson photo: Mahdi Zamani, ESO)

Juhan Aru, Mitali Banerjee, and Richard I. Anderson (credit: EPFL; Anderson photo: Mahdi Zamani, ESO)

The Swiss National Foundation’s Eccellenza Professorial Fellowships and SNSF Eccellenza Grants are given each year to “highly qualified young researchers who aspire to a permanent professorship.” The goal is to support these scientists in leading generously funded research projects with their own team at a Swiss higher education institution.

The Eccellenza Grantsaim at “researchers in all disciplines who have recently been appointed as tenure-track assistant professors at a Swiss higher education institution.” The Grants offer project funds up to 1,500,000 Swiss francs over five years.

The Eccellenza Professorial Fellowshipsare aimed “at outstanding researchers in all disciplines who have a doctorate or equivalent qualification and are pursuing an academic career, but who have not yet obtained an assistant professorship.” Along with salaries, the Fellowships fund projects up to 1,000,000 Swiss francs over five years.

This year, two scientists at EPFL’s School of Basic Sciences have been awarded Eccellenza Grants, while another has received a Professorial Fellowship.

Juhan Aru, who holds the Chair of Random Geometry has received an Eccellenza Grant. His research lies mainly in probability theory, in the domain of random planar geometry. His group studies random curves, surfaces, and other random geometric structures that help to geometrically encode and describe the large-scale behaviour of complex systems like 2D statistical physics models.

Title of awarded project: “The geometry of the Gaussian free field and applications.”

Mitali Banerjee at the Laboratory of Quantum Physics, Topology, and Correlations has received an Eccellenza Grant. Her research focuses on the understanding of fundamentals of emergent quantum many-body physics. Strong correlations in solid-state systems often make the regular electrons behave differently, and sometimes the resultant quantum states host quasi-particles that are rather immune to local environmental disturbance. These quasi-particles are fundamentally different from electrons or any other fundamental particles. Being fragile, they are elusive and experiments to detect them are much more challenging; yet their understanding may change the way we presently look at advanced technology.

Title of awarded project: “Unambiguous identification of the topological order of the quantum Hall states.”

Richard I. Anderson, who will join EPFL’s Institute of Physics in February 2021, has received an Eccellenza Professorial Fellowship as well as an ERC Starting Grant. His research lies at the interface between stellar astrophysics and observational cosmology and seeks to measure the local expansion rate of the Universe, Hubble's constant, to within 1%. Specifically, Anderson and his team will focus on the ability of pulsating stars, such as Cepheids, to accurately trace cosmic distances while simultaneously pursuing a better astrophysical understanding of so-called standard candles. Thus, the team will probe the origins and implications of the looming cosmological crisis suggested by the current discord among observed and predicted values of Hubble's constant. 

Title of awarded project: “Measuring Hubble’s Constant to 1% With Pulsating Stars.”

Full list of winners (PDF)