ECU biology professor selected as Sloan Research Fellow

GREENVILLE (02/17/2012) – An East Carolina University faculty member was honored this week with a Sloan Research Fellowship and $50,000 to further his research in ocean sciences. (

Dr. Matt Schrenk, an assistant professor of biology, was selected alongside 125 other researchers from the U.S. and Canada. Awarded annually since 1955, the fellowships are given by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to early-career scientists and scholars whose achievements and potential identify them as rising stars, the next generation of scientific leaders.

“Today’s Sloan Research Fellows are tomorrow’s Nobel Prize winners,” said Dr. Paul L. Joskow, president of the Sloan Foundation. “These outstanding men and women are responsible for some of the most exciting science being done today. The Foundation is proud to support them during this pivotal stage of their careers.”

Awards historically focused within seven scientific fields: Chemistry, computer science, economics, mathematics, evolutionary and computational molecular biology, neuroscience and physics. This year, the foundation added ocean science. Schrenk, whose research focuses on the subseafloor microbial biosphere, is one of first eight individuals to be honored in that category.

“We’re really at the frontier of studying marine life and a lot of oceanography,” Schrenk said Thursday. “(This award) means my community appreciates my work…and believes in my potential. It’s sort of a gold star for the work you’ve done. A pat on the back.”

To qualify, candidates are first nominated by their peers and subsequently selected by an independent panel of senior scholars. Other 2012 recipients hail from institutions including Yale, Stanford and MIT. Only three are based at North Carolina universities – Schrenk and two faculty members at Duke University.

“Matt is working at the very edges of our knowledge and of our biosphere to better understand the true distribution of life on earth and to characterize biodiversity in extreme environments,” said Dr. Jeffrey McKinnon, chair of ECU’s Biology Department. “His work is fundamental, important, and of lasting value and I could not be more proud to have him on our faculty.”

Schrenk was recently in the spotlight after the Sloan Foundation tapped him to lead a $1.5 million grant to study microbes living under the earth’s oceans and continents.