Three on faculty win Guggenheim fellowship

By Susan Kelley
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle April 23, 2013

For their prior achievement and exceptional promise, three Cornell faculty members have been awarded Guggenheim fellowships.

They are Brian Crane, professor of chemistry and chemical biology; Gary Evans, the Elizabeth Lee Vincent Professor of Human Ecology; and Natalie Mahowald, associate professor of atmospheric sciences.


Crane is interested in the chemical processes that underlie the transmission of signals in biological systems. In particular, he studies cellular behaviors in terms of molecular structure and reactivity. Specific interests are the ability of bacteria to regulate their motility in response to chemical gradients and the ability of eukaryotic cells to pace their metabolism to the circadian clock. Crane also aims to predict molecular responses from computational models and ultimately to couple mechanism to function by introducing components with altered properties back into cellular settings.

In 2000, Crane joined the Cornell faculty, where he has since made many contributions to the field of protein structure and function. He was named a Seale Scholar in 2002, an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow in 2005 and in 2012 was appointed a fellow of the American Association of Arts and Sciences.

He will use the Guggenheim to fund a sabbatical year at the University of California to learn several modern spectroscopic and synchrotron-radiation based techniques, with the long-term goal of incorporating these methods into his program at Cornell. “If all goes well, I also hope to write an in-depth scientific review during my sabbatical,” he said.



Evans is a developmental and environmental psychologist interested in how the physical environment affects children’s development. Much of his work over the past two decades has focused on the environment of childhood poverty, examining how the accumulation of psychosocial and physical risk factor exposures among children influences their development.

A faculty member at Cornell since 1992, Evans has had continuous extramural funding for his research beginning with a National Science Foundation Dissertation Fellowship and has received numerous teaching awards throughout his career. He was a member of the John D. and Catherine T. Mac Arthur Foundation Network on Socioeconomic Status and Health and in 2006 received an honorary doctorate from Stockholm University. He currently serves on the Board on Children, Youth and Families of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine.

He will use the Guggenheim to begin a book on poverty and child development, he said. “The book will focus on the developmental impacts of childhood poverty, including cognitive, mental and physical health along with the mediating mechanisms believed to explain these linkages,” Evans said.


Mahowald, a Cornell faculty member since 2007, studies natural feedbacks in the climate system, how they responded in the past to natural forces that change the climate and how they are likely to respond in the future. Much of her work focuses on mineral aerosols, which are an excellent example of an earth system process: They both respond to climate and force climate to change. She has also studied fire, the carbon cycle and, more recently, understanding natural emissions of methane and nitrous oxide.

One of the strands that pulls her work together is the interaction of different components of the earth system and how they modify climate. An example is her recent paper in the journal Science identifying aerosol-carbon cycle (biogeochemistry) interactions as a significant climate forcing. Mahowald pointed out that aerosols related to human activity reduced carbon dioxide concentrations and also offset the emissions of carbon dioxide.

She will use the award to finance her sabbatical next year, when she’ll go to Paris to study aerosol indirect effects on biogeochemistry with French colleagues, she said.

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation awarded fellowships to 175 scholars, artists and scientists chosen from nearly 3,000 applicants.

Often characterized as “midcareer” awards, Guggenheim fellowships are intended for people who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.