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Guggenheim Foundation names two UW-Madison faculty as fellows

April 17, 2012 By Susannah Brooks

A mathematician and a legal scholar at the University of Wisconsin–Madison have received 2012 Guggenheim Fellowship Awards, recognizing artists, scholars and scientists based on distinguished past achievement and exceptional future promise.

Alexander Kiselev, professor of mathematics, and Asifa Quraishi-Landes, assistant professor of law, are among 181 individuals selected by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation of New York from a pool of nearly 3,000 applicants.

Kiselev’s research in fluid mechanics focuses on a class of equations called active scalars, which play an important modeling role in many applications. A co-written paper on surface quasi-geostrophic (SQG) equation from atmospheric science (with Fedor Nazarov and Alexander Volberg) was profiled in 2010 as a “fast-moving front paper” — highly cited — by Thomson Reuters. He has received a National Science Foundation Career Award and a fellowship from the A.P. Sloan Foundation. A dedicated teacher and mentor, he is currently co-writing a monograph to attract more talented young people to science and facilitate their training.

“What I strive for in my career is to produce high-quality mathematical research that is both relevant in applications and involves rich and beautiful mathematics,” says Kiselev, in his Guggenheim biography. “Then, it is only natural to try to share the feeling of this beauty and power with younger generations.”

The Guggenheim fellowship will allow Kiselev to devote more time to research in active scalars and mathematical biology, an innovative and interdisciplinary field. Studying the role of chemotaxis (attraction of biological cells by concentration of a chemical) in ecology, the group’s first results suggest that chemotaxis may play a crucial role in survival of many marine organisms, and needs to be included in models of marine ecosystems.

Quraishi-Landes teaches courses in Islamic law and American constitutional law. Her published work addresses comparative Islamic and American constitutional theory, as well as issues relating to Islamic law and women. Her Guggenheim biography touts her “reputation for illuminating and creative explanations of complex and unfamiliar topics, a talent exhibited in both oral and written form.” A 2009 Carnegie Scholar and former law clerk for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, she was also a Public Delegate on the 2010 United States Delegation to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, chaired by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The fellowship will support progress on a book manuscript tentatively titled “Islamic Constitutionalism for the 21st Century: Not Theocratic. Not Secular. Not Impossible.” The book seeks to articulate a way out of the current conflict between secularism and Islamism in Muslim-majority countries. Quraishi-Landes will sketch a constitutional framework that responds to both the Muslim impulse for a sharia-based government as well as secular desires for a non-theocratic system that can respect international human rights.

“This fellowship gives me the opportunity to finish a project that I’ve been working on for years — now with new excitement and relevance in light of the ‘Arab Spring’,” says Quraishi-Landes. “My goal is to sketch a theory of Islamic constitutionalism that operates outside the box of the usual constitutional discourse about Muslim governments, opening up possibilities for new — and, I think, more workable — constitutional structures that others seem to have missed.”

Since 1925, the Guggenheim Foundation has granted nearly $290 million in fellowships to over 17,000 individuals from a wide range of professions, including writers, painters, sculptors, photographers, filmmakers, choreographers, physical and biological scientists, social scientists and scholars in the humanities.