Yesterday, President Obama and the Department of Energy (DOE) honored the exemplary careers of two scientists, Claudio Pellegrini, of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and Charles V. Shank, of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, with the Enrico Fermi Presidential Award. Established in 1956, the Enrico Fermi Presidential Award is given to individuals to recognize their exceptional scientific, technical, engineering, and/or management achievements that have advanced areas of research and technology related to the broad missions of DOE. The award was named in honor of Nobel-Prize-winning physicist Enrico Fermi, who achieved the first nuclear chain reaction in 1942.
President Obama met with this year’s winners in the Oval Office to congratulate them on their decades of accomplishments. The awardees were later honored at a ceremony hosted by Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz.
The two awardees have made significant contributions to advance scientific research in the United States and around the world. Professor Pellegrini has spent his career working on pioneering research to advance our understanding of relativistic electron beams and free-electron lasers. His work has contributed to the development of the world’s first hard x-ray free electron laser (XFEL), which has given researchers new resources to understand our natural world, enabling the study of new areas of ultrafast x-ray physics, and fields spanning atomic physics, plasma physics, chemistry, biology, and material science.
Dr. Shank is widely acknowledged as the founder of the field of ultrafast science. Not only did he invent many source methods and lasers used in this field, but he also worked to launch the DOE Joint Genome Institute, which successfully decoded three human chromosomes in the Human Genome Project. He also helped create the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, helped develop new applications for the Advanced Light Source, and created the Molecular Foundry.
Fae Jencks is Senior Policy Advisor for Public Engagement at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.