UCI News

Five UCI junior faculty named Hellman Fellows for 2020-21

Assistant professors in chemistry, computer science, dance and psychological science awarded grants to support research, scholarly work

June 25, 2020
Five UCI junior faculty named Hellman Fellows for 2020-21
UCI 2020-21 Hellman Fellows from left to right: J. Zoe Klemfuss, Jenna Riis, Lindsay Gilmour, Sameer Singh, Elizabeth Bess.

Irvine, Calif., June 25, 2020 — Five University of California, Irvine assistant professors have received 2020-21 Hellman Fellowships, which help promising junior faculty across a variety of disciplines realize their scientific and academic potential. They join an elite group of 58 UCI Hellman Fellows since 2013, when the campus program was established with a gift of $1.25 million from the Hellman Family Foundation.

The 2020-21 awardees, who will each receive up to $50,000, are:

  • Elizabeth Bess, assistant professor of chemistry, who will study the secrets of what makes vegetables and whole grains important for good health. The key to unlocking this mystery is the beneficial bacteria living in peoples’ guts – the human gut microbe.
  • Sameer Singh, assistant professor of computer science, who will develop methods that provide intuitive explanations for why a machine learning algorithm, which is so complex, made a certain prediction.
  • J. Zoe Klemfuss, assistant professor of psychological science, who will identify effective techniques for building rapport with suspected child maltreatment victims to encourage disclosure and elicit complete and accurate reports.
  • Lindsay Gilmour, assistant professor of dance, for her proposal, who will explore Tibetan ritual dance in monasteries and nunneries in Ladakh and Tibetan exile settlements in India, focusing on how ancient rituals survive exile and modernization, as well as how the roles of women and traditional cultures evolve and develop within those frameworks; and
  • Jenna Riis, assistant professor of psychological science, for her proposal, who will identify and validate biologic and self-report measures of oral health that could be used by researchers and clinicians to address oral, physical and emotional health disparities and improve the integration and quality of healthcare.

“These worthy recipients are some of the best talent within our junior faculty,” said Diane O’Dowd, vice provost for academic personnel and professor of developmental & cell biology. “Through the generosity of the Hellman Fellows Fund, we are able to support their  innovative work that will make a real impact on our community and the world, as UCI continues to thrive as an environment for research excellence.”

Chris and Warren Hellman began providing early-career funding to junior faculty at UC campuses and four private institutions in 1994. Since then, more than 1,900 individuals have been recipients. The grants may be used for such research purposes as equipment, travel, photography and graduate assistants.

About UCI’s Brilliant Future campaign: Publicly launched on Oct. 4, 2019, the Brilliant Future campaign aims to raise awareness and support for UCI and UCI Health. By engaging 75,000 alumni and garnering $2 billion in philanthropic investment, UCI seeks to reach new heights of excellence in student success, health and wellness, research and more. Learn more by visiting www.brilliantfuture.uci.edu.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 222 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $5 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.

Media access: Radio programs/stations may, for a fee, use an on-campus ISDN line to interview UCI faculty and experts, subject to availability and university approval. For more UCI news, visit news.uci.edu. Additional resources for journalists may be found at communications.uci.edu/for-journalists.