UWM researcher named a 2019 Guggenheim fellow

Georg Essl, a research professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at UWM, has been named among the 2019 Guggenheim Fellows in the category of computer science.

Guggenheim Fellowships are prestigious awards that recognize prior achievement and exceptional promise of scholars, artists and writers in the United States and Canada. Administered by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the fellowships include a grant to support award winners in their endeavors.

Georg Essl

“It was a surprise,” Essl said of his award. “You never know with these things, and it’s very competitive, so it’s a very nice thing to happen. For me, this represents a chance to focus more on my work and gain a bit of (financial) independence.”

Essl’s Guggenheim project focuses on using topology – the way in which constituent parts are interrelated – in the creation of algorithms that produce sound, such as one might hear when using an electric keyboard.

“You can still go into a store and buy a keyboard that makes artificial sounds, or even tries to emulate violins and pianos and so forth,” he explained. “I’m working on the algorithms that try to make synthesizer sounds even more crazy.”

He applied for the fellowship so that he could fund his work while traveling with his wife, Lisa Silverman, associate professor of history and Jewish studies at UWM, as she spends her sabbatical as a fellow at the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies in Austria.

Essl was among 168 fellows chosen from a field of nearly 3,000 applicants. Since its establishment, the foundation has granted more than $360 million in fellowships to over 18,000 people, among whom are scores of Nobel laureates, Fields Medalists, poets laureate, members of the various national academies, and winners of the Pulitzer Prize, Turing Award, National Book Award, and other significant, internationally recognized honors.

“It’s exceptionally satisfying to name 168 new Guggenheim Fellows,” Edward Hirsch, president of the  Guggenheim Foundation, said in a prepared statement. “These artists and writers, scholars and scientists, represent the best of the best. Each year since 1925, the Guggenheim Foundation has bet everything on the individual, and we’re thrilled to continue to do so with this wonderfully talented and diverse group. It’s an honor to be able to support these individuals to do the work they were meant to do.”

Before coming to Milwaukee, Essl worked on the faculty of the University of Michigan, where he led the Mobile Music and Interaction Lab and directed the Michigan Mobile Phone Ensemble. Essl is a member of the IEEE, the Acoustical Society of America, the International Computer Music Association, the American Mathematical Society and the Association for Computing Machinery.

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