Obama Bestows Highest Presidential Honor on Early Career Scientists and Engineers

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twenty PECASE awardees nominated by the National Science Foundation
The twenty PECASE awardees nominated by
the National Science Foundation

At the White House on January 13, President Barack Obama bestowed on 100 men and women the United States government’s highest honor for scientists and engineers in the early stages of their independent research careers — the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). Among the awardees, twenty were nominated by the National Science Foundation. These awardees come from universities around the country, and excel in research in a variety of scientific disciplines: biological sciences, computer and information science and engineering, education and human resources, engineering, geosciences, mathematical and physical sciences, and social, behavioral, and economic sciences.

All NSF PECASE awardees are drawn from a pool of individuals who have already been selected through rigorous peer review to receive five-year grants through the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program. CAREER awardees are those who have proven themselves exemplary in integrating research and education within the context of the mission of their organization. The competition is rigorous: in 2008, NSF made 455 CAREER awards, from more than 2500 proposals reviewed.

The Presidential Early Career Awards embody the high priority the Administration places on producing outstanding scientists and engineers to advance the nation’s goals and contribute to all sectors of the economy.

The President’s meeting with the PECASE winners highlighted the administration’s recognition that America’s global leadership in science and technology is not automatic, but depends on constantly cultivating new generations of ambitious and dedicated explorers in the sciences and engineering. There was also an acknowledgment that national nourishing of curiosity starts even earlier than that, in the way we teach children about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. That’s why this event resonates strongly with those of last week, when the President announced an expansion of the “Educate to Innovate” campaign to encourage and inspire young students to pursue studies in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

The awards, established by President Clinton in February 1996, are coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President. Awardees are selected on the basis of two criteria: pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology, and a commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach.

This year’s recipients were first announced over the summer, and received their awards and met with the President January 13. Their names and Federal Departments and Agencies can be seen in the official White House press release issued in July.

This year’s NSF recipients are:

  • Adam D. Smith, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Amy B. Cerato, University of Oklahoma
  • Cameron R. Currie, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Charles R. Keeton II, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
  • Chun Ning Lau, University of California, Riverside
  • Hao Lin, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
  • Harmit S. Malik, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
  • Ioannis Chasiotis, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Jimmy de la Torre, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
  • Joel L. Dawson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • John M. Herbert, The Ohio State University
  • Joy K. Ward, University of Kansas
  • Maria M. Calbi, Southern Illinois University Carbondale
  • Monica F. Cox, Purdue University
  • Rada F. Mihalcea, University of North Texas
  • Roland G. Fryer Jr., Harvard University
  • Scott R. Sheffield, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Sean Hallgren, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Steven D. Jacobsen, Northwestern University
  • Zuzanna S. Siwy, University of California, Irvine

The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering.

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