Todd Oakley and Miguel Eckstein, both scientists and professors at UC Santa Barbara, received Guggenheim Fellowships on April 9 in the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation’s 95th annual competition. Among the 168 recipients in the United States and Canada distinguished by the award were artists, scholars, and scientists, which Eckstein found humbling. In an interview, he said he felt like he was “able to crash a cool party of poets and musicians ” — he knew a few, he said — “I don’t belong there, but I’ll play along.”
Despite his modesty, Eckstein’s $50,000 award will go toward research aimed at understanding the effects of repetitive eye movements on how the brain recognizes faces, specifically during development. To do so, he will travel most likely to India or Ethiopia next year to study children born with cataracts who received surgery later in life, thus skipping the normal development that accompanies vision.
Oakley teaches in the Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology department. He plans to use his fellowship award to continue research on sea fireflies to answer questions concerning bioluminescence, evolution, and light production. “Learning how animals produce light in diverse ways may inspire new tools to use biological light for biomedical applications,” Oakley was quoted in a university press release. Pierre Wiltzius, dean of mathematical, life, and physical sciences, added, “We are so proud to call them both members of our faculty.”