Obama bestows highest presidential honor on early career scientists and engineers

At the White House yesterday, 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 acknowledgement 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 Wednesday. 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:

Maria M. Calbi, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Amy B. Cerato, University of Oklahoma

Ioannis Chasiotis, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Monica F. Cox, Purdue University

Cameron R. Currie, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Joel L. Dawson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Jimmy de la Torre, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Roland G. Fryer Jr., Harvard University

Sean Hallgren, The Pennsylvania State University

John M. Herbert, The Ohio State University

Steven D. Jacobsen, Northwestern University

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

Rada F. Mihalcea, University of North Texas

Scott R. Sheffield, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Zuzanna S. Siwy, University of California, Irvine

Adam D. Smith, The Pennsylvania State University

Joy K. Ward, University of Kansas

Note to regional reporters: For more information about, or interviews with, local winners of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, please contact the awardees’ home institution or agency.

The material in this press release comes from the originating research organization. Content may be edited for style and length. Want more? Sign up for our daily email.