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Honoring Federally-Funded Scientists and Engineers at the Forefront of Research and Discovery

Meet the recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers

Today, President Obama welcomed more than 100 leading scientists and engineers from across the country (and around the world!) to thank them for their work on some of the most challenging and complex issues in science and technology. These individuals, the latest recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), spent two days in Washington, D.C., meeting with Administration leaders and sharing the insights of their work.

During his visit with these awardees, President Obama congratulated them on their achievements and urged them to continue to lead the way in driving discovery and innovation. He also noted that the recipients, all of whom are either employed or funded by the Federal government, underscored the importance of our Nation’s investments in research and development.

Indeed, these outstanding young scientists and innovators are not only leaders in their fields, they are paving the way for the next generation and are giving back to their communities. For example, awardee Marcel Agüeros is not only discovering new insights into the way that stars evolve, but he also runs a program that aims to increase the number of underrepresented minorities pursuing STEM graduate programs and careers.

Similarly, awardee Erin Carlson is working to slow the progress of bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics. On top of that, she shares her love of chemistry with students by creating hands-on laboratory activities to engage them in chemistry.

Even more of the awardees are taking on major challenges, from climate change, to cancer, and beyond. We can’t wait to see what these outstanding discoverers do next!

President Barack Obama joins recipients of the 2016 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) for a group photo in the East Room of the White House, May 5, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
President Barack Obama joins recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) for a group photo in the East Room of the White House, May 5, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Citations of the Recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers

Department of Agriculture

Dr. Renee Arias, National Peanut Research Laboratory    
For outstanding research contributing to the advancement of scientific knowledge and advancement of U.S. Agriculture.

Dr. Matthew Patrick Thompson, Rocky Mountain Research Station
For advancement of risk management science through application to wildfire hazard that the fire community has implemented to save lives, reduce fire suppression costs, and mitigate fire potential via hazard fuel reductions.  

Dr. Kenong Xu, Cornell University
For research into the metabolic pathways that underlie apple acidity, thereby increasing our understanding of fruit quality; and for a tireless commitment to community service and engagement with apple growers, students, and scholars.

Department of Commerce

Dr. Adam Creuziger, National Institute of Standards and Technology 
For developing measurement methods for advanced materials needed by the U.S. automotive industry to manufacture lightweight vehicles, providing metallurgical expertise to government agencies, and contributing to science education and international clean water programs.

Dr. Tara Marie Lovestead, National Institute of Standards and Technology
For pioneering research toward simple, inexpensive detection of trace levels of chemicals in vapors with unprecedented sensitivity; for enabling revolutionary advances in homeland security, forensics, and food safety; and for support of learning-based childcare.

Dr. Andrew David Ludlow, National Institute of Standards and Technology
For developing and perfecting optical lattice atomic clocks as the most stable and accurate clocks in the world, which will have future impacts on advanced communications and a broad range of precision measurements far beyond timekeeping.

Dr. Nathan Mitchell Bacheler, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
For pioneering the use of new technologies and quantitative methods to characterize fish communities, and effectively communicating fishery science to stakeholders and the general public.

Dr. Gijs de Boer, University of Colorado and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
For fundamental contributions to the understanding and modeling of Arctic atmospheric processes and their impact on global climate, and for the effective communication of Arctic science to indigenous Arctic populations.

Dr. James Thorson, National Marine Fisheries Service
For exceptional contributions to quantitative fisheries and marine ecology that improve stock assessments for harvested and protected species and will advance future effective conservation and management of NOAA trust resources.

Department of Defense

Dr. Alon A. Gorodetsky, University of California, Irvine 
For outstanding research accomplishments in organic and biological electronics and electroluminescent devices, and for a commitment to training and mentoring the next generation of scientists.

Dr. Elad Harel, Northwestern University 
For pioneering work on the development of powerful optical techniques to probe the structure and dynamics of complex chemical systems; for commitment to cross‐disciplinary research and education; and for leadership in the scientific community. 

Dr. Anya Rachel Jones, University of Maryland 
For outstanding contributions to foundational research in aerodynamics, and dedicated community service through which she inspires young people from underrepresented groups to seek careers in science and engineering. 

Dr. Lena F. Kourkoutis, Cornell University 
For outstanding research accomplishments in the development and applications of atomic resolution electron microscopy and spectroscopy, for fundamental contributions to the discovery and control of new multifunctional materials, and for dedication to the education of future scientists and engineers.

Dr. Timothy Michael Ombrello, Air Force Research Laboratory 
For outstanding research in the fundamentals of plasma and combustion systems, for distinguished technical contributions to the Air Force, and for dedication to mentoring the next generation of scientists and engineers. 

Dr. Deji Akinwande, University of Texas, Austin 
For outstanding research accomplishments in nanomaterials, graphene device physics, and opto-electronics, and for dedication to the education of future scientists and engineers.

Dr. Jin-Hee Cho, U.S. Army Research Laboratory 
For fundamental contributions to the science of cyber trust, network security, and tactical network applications; for dedication to mentoring students; and for leadership in the broader research community.  

Dr. Sarah E. Cowie, University of Nevada, Reno 
For outstanding research accomplishments in social-power relationships and heritage studies; for work regarding social theories of governmentality, discourse analysis, social capital, and actor-network theory; and for important contributions in support of Native American communities. 

Dr. Heather Faith Pidcoke, U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research 
For fundamental contributions to developing safe and effective insulin infusion protocols for the care of critically ill patients; for leadership in applying multidisciplinary approaches to improving the care of combat casualties; and for dedication to mentoring the next generation of scientists.

Dr. James M. Rondinelli, Northwestern University  
For seminal research contributions in computational physics and novel materials design approaches, paving the way for the design of many-body quantum properties. 

Dr. Luke Zettlemoyer, University of Washington 
For outstanding research accomplishments in computational semantics, particularly innovative approaches for problems in natural language understanding, and for dedication to educating the next generation of scientists and engineers. 

Dr. Pieter Abbeel, University of California, Berkeley 
For contributions to machine learning and robotic manipulation of deformable objects and for dedication to educating the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Dr. Dino Di Carlo, University of California, Los Angeles 
For pioneering work in fluid inertia for precision control of cells and particles, and for mentoring of the next generation of leaders who can further implement engineering solutions to improve health.

Dr. Patrick E. Hopkins, University of Virginia 
For contributions to the fields of nanoscale heat transfer and interfacial thermal processes, and for mentoring and providing research opportunities for high school and undergraduate students.

Dr. Colin D. Joye, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory 
For outstanding research accomplishments in microfabrication techniques, for pioneering work in imaging and communications, and for dedication to outreach and mentoring students around the world.

Dr. Jennifer L. Miksis-Olds, The Pennsylvania State University 
For research accomplishments in marine mammal ecology, fish ecology, and marine acoustics; for work to enhance understanding of global ocean noise and its impact on marine mammal acoustic communication; and for educational outreach and community service.

Dr. Bozhi Tian, University of Chicago 
For seminal contributions in novel semiconductor materials synthesis, device applications in photovoltaics, intracellular electrophysiology, and tissue engineering; and for leadership in promoting interdisciplinary research and mentoring of minority undergraduate and high school students.

Department of Education

Dr. Christopher J. Lemons, Peabody College of Vanderbilt University 
For unwavering commitment and work for students with disabilities, such as Down Syndrome, that has led to improved quality of life, access to education, and opportunities to learn and contribute to society.

Dr. Cynthia Puranik, University of Pittsburgh 
For outstanding and innovative work to develop new and innovative systems to assess and monitor developing writing skills in children, providing insights into early literacy development.

Department of Energy

Dr. Tonio Buonassisi, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
For leadership and demonstration of exceptional promise in research at the forefront of the photovoltaics field, including defect engineering in multi-crystalline silicon solar cells and emerging photovoltaic absorbers, as well as for impact on the commercialization of photovoltaic technology.

Dr. Jonathan Brigham Hopkins, University of California, Los Angeles
For work on the design and fabrication of a new class of micro-engineered materials with novel properties including micro-scale material architectures that achieve targeted thermo-mechanical properties such as zero or negative coefficients of thermal expansion.

Dr. Milind Vidyadhar Kulkarni, Purdue University
For highly innovative research on new computational algorithms that enable efficient parallel compilers and runtimes for mission critical applications that are based on massively irregular data sets, and for exceptional scientific leadership.

Dr. Keji Lai, University of Texas, Austin 
For innovative work in the development of microwave impedance microscopy to explore the microscopic nature of electrostatic field effects in advanced materials, and for leadership in promulgating the applied technology aspects of the technique.

Dr. Tammy Ma, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 
For innovation and leadership in quantifying hydrodynamic instability and mix in Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) implosion experiments at the National Ignition Facility, and for key contributions to experiments demonstrating the highest ICF neutron yield and laboratory confinement parameters achieved to date.

Dr. David Mascareñas, Los Alamos National Laboratory 
For innovative and multidisciplinary research and development of cyber-physical systems and, haptic human-computer interfaces for structural damage detection; and for excellent mentorship and commitment to scientific outreach through development of the Los Alamos National Laboratory Science of Signatures Advanced Study Institute.

Dr. Paul Richard Ohodnicki, Jr., National Energy Technology Laboratory 
For outstanding scientific leadership in the discovery and development of new materials that enable advanced energy systems and for demonstrated excellence in educational outreach, mentorship, and research collaboration.

Dr. Michelle Ann O'Malley, University of California, Santa Barbara 
For innovative research on lignocellulose-degradation by anaerobic fungal species with application to biofuels production from plant biomass; for development of a genetic system for anaerobic fungi enabling bioengineering approaches to biofuels production; and for teaching and leadership activities in scientific societies.

Dr. Matthias R. Schindler, University of South Carolina 
For innovative theoretical research to establish a systematic framework for the description of parity violation in few-nucleon systems; for calculating reliable and testable relations between observables in light nuclei; and for scientific leadership in the area of parity violation.

Dr. Jonathan Simon, University of Chicago 
For pioneering research at the intersection of atomic, molecular, and optical sciences and condensed matter physics, including the investigation of highly controllable atomic-optical systems as quantum simulators for electronic condensed matter systems and with possible implications for quantum computation.

Dr. Michael Stadler, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
For serving as lead developer of the DOE-funded microgrid modeling tool, the Distributed Energy Resources Customer Adoption Model, which is now available in 12 different versions with more than 350 registered users worldwide.

Dr. Melissa Christine Teague, Sandia National Laboratories
For pioneering the first application of advanced microstructural instrumentation to high burnup mixed oxide fuel; for preparing successive thin sections using a focused ion beam, characterizing each section using EBSD and EDS, and reconstructing the three dimensional original sample.

Dr. William Tisdale, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
For developing novel methodology to visualize ultrafast electronic processes at interfaces and for conceptualizing its use in understanding ensemble behavior in photovoltaic, electrochemical, and optoelectronic systems.

Department of Health and Human Services

Dr. Cheryl Schroedter Broussard, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 
For significant leadership and contributions to the surveillance and research of maternal medication use as a risk factor for birth defects and adverse reproductive outcomes. 

Mr. Jacob L. Carr, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health 
For advancing the development of the mining safety technologies of proximity detection for continuous mining machines and intelligent lockout/tagout for stationary machinery.

Dr. Carrie Reed, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 
For significant contributions to seasonal and pandemic influenza prevention and control, translating abstract models into practical uses, such as measuring the impact of annual influenza vaccination, developing the framework to characterize the severity of an influenza pandemic, and demonstrating the benefit of adding a second influenza B lineage to the influenza vaccine.

Dr. Hillel Adesnik, University of California, Berkeley 
For studies on cortical function and neruological disorders.

Dr. Samantha A. Brugmann, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center 
For studies on the developmental processes essential to craniofacial development.

Dr. Namandjé N. Bumpus, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
For studies to investigate the mechanisms underlying the hepatotoxicity of the antiretroviral drugs.

Dr. Kafui Dzirasa, Duke University 
For studies of large-scale neural network interactions that may shed light on the pathophysiology of affective disorders.

Dr. Camilla Forsberg, University of California, Santa Cruz 
For studies to understand the mechanisms that regulate stem cell fate decisions.

Dr. Tina Renee Goldstein, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
For studies to develop and test therapies for adolescents with bipolar disorder to target mood symptoms and suicidality.

Dr. Viviana Gradinaru, California Institute of Technology 
For studies on the architecture of neuron-communication in the brain.

Dr. Jordan Jamieson Green, Johns Hopkins University 
For studies to develop nanoparticles for delivery of therapeutic DNA to brain cancer cells.

Dr. Katherine Kindt, National Institutes of Health 
For studies on disorders in mechanosensation, such as hearing, balance, and touch.

Dr. Andre Larochelle, National Institutes of Health 
For studies on regenerative therapies for inherited blood disorders.

Dr. Jennifer Lorvick, RTI International 
For studies to understand how criminal justice involvement contributes to health disparities among illicit drug using African-American women.

Dr. Courtney Anne Miller, The Scripps Research Institute 
For studies on the prevention of substance abuse relapse triggered by drug-associated memory. 

Dr. Kiran Musunuru, University of Pennsylvania 
For studies to understand the genetics of cardiovascular disease.

Dr. David J. Pagliarini, Morgridge Institute for Research
For studies to examine the mitochondrial proteome during the development of obesity and diabetes.

Dr. Sachin Patel, Vanderbilt University Medical Center
For studies on the treatment of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders.

Dr. Amy Ralston, Michigan State University 
For studies to reveal insight into mammalian early development and stem cell establishment.

Dr. Ervin Sejdic, University of Pittsburgh 
For studies to addresses a significant problem in those suffering from stroke namely Dysphagia (swallowing impairment).

Dr. Elizabeth Renee Skidmore, University of Pittsburgh 
For studies to examine the influences of cognitive and affective impairments on neurorehabilitation outcomes.

Dr. Kay Maxine Tye, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Picower Institute for Learning and Memory
For studies to develop and apply methods to decipher and manipulate the neural circuitry underlying compulsive sugar intake to ameliorate behaviors leading to obesity.

Dr. Muhammad Walji, The University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston 
For studies to improve the usability of electronic health records to mitigate critical use errors that may harm patients.

Department of the Interior

Dr. Richard William Briggs, U.S. Geological Survey 
For achievements in deciphering and understanding the earthquake prehistories of several of Earth's most hazardous faults, for helping to apply these results to regional earthquake-hazard assessments, and for intellectual and scientific leadership in earthquake-hazards research in the western U.S. and diverse regions of the globe.

Dr. Jeff Pigati, U.S. Geological Survey
For significant contributions toward understanding the paleoclimatic significance of desert wetlands, for developing new methods and materials for radiocarbon dating, and for leadership in the investigations of the Snowmastodon fossil site in the Rocky Mountains.

Dr. Maureen Kathleen Purcell, U.S. Geological Survey
For research on the molecular basis of the innate immune response of fish to pathogens or vaccines and the roles of both genetics and the environment in this process.

Department of Veterans Affairs

Dr. Paul D. Marasco, Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center 
For innovative research on sensory integration with prosthetic devices, cognitive embodiment, and neural plasticity.

Dr. Panagiotis (Panos) Roussos, James J. Peters VA Medical Center 
For exceptional work in psychiatry and schizophrenia that is very promising for the development of more effective drug treatments.

Dr. Erika Jane Wolf, VA Boston Healthcare System 
For ground-breaking discoveries related to advancing our understanding of posttraumatic stress disorder in veterans from the genetic level, coupled with assessment approaches, both with the potential to lead to therapeutic improvements.

Environmental Protection Agency

Dr. Rebecca Susanne Dodder, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
For exceptional research to characterize the impacts of energy choices on air, water, and climate; leadership in coordinating complex research programs; and excellent ability to translate Agency science to students and educators.

Dr. Alex Marten, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
For innovative research and scientific leadership in the field of climate change economics, specifically in the application of global integrated assessment models for calculating the social costs of greenhouse gases.

Intelligence Community

Dr. Kregg E. Arms, National Security Agency
For pioneering applications of the physics of measurement, matter, and motion to security applications and for mentoring and developing opportunities for colleagues.

Ms. Nicole Leigh Bohannon, Central Intelligence Agency and University of Illinois
For extraordinary expertise in the optimized design and fabrication of a wide variety of antennas and the development of algorithms and processes needed to expedite support of advanced geo‐location solutions in the field.

Dr. Ashley Holt, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
For research that addresses a unique set of problems at the intersection of geospatial science and natural language processing, including specific areas such as machine translation, hand‐held applications, spatial modeling of place, languages and dialects, and representation of uncertainty and data provenance in non‐traditional data.

Dr. Jon Thomas Kosloski, National Security Agency
For technical achievements that have advanced the entire field of optical receivers while simultaneously impacting the DOD’s mission.

Mr. David Edward Loveall, Federal Bureau of Investigation 
For outstanding contributions to the field of digital forensics and for commitment to supporting the FBI’s mission.

Dr. Whitney L. Emch, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
For significant contributions to United States and Coalition forces through critical analysis related to Counter Improvised Explosive Devices, and for research into creative scientific solutions to Intelligence Community hard target problems of high interest.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Dr. James Nicholas Benardini III, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory 
For outstanding innovation and leadership across the breadth of the planetary protection discipline, spanning both research and flight project implementation.

Dr. Jin-Woo Han, NASA Ames Research Center 
For exceptional contributions to nanoelectronics and the development of nanodevices for space applications including flexible memories, transistors, and sensors; novel nanogap transistors for radiation sensing; and nanoscale vacuum tubes.

Dr. Michele Viola Manuel, University of Florida 
For exceptional achievements and innovative technical leadership in the development of self-healing metals to meet NASA’s high priority needs for future space and aerospace missions.

Dr. Andrew Molthan, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center 
For outstanding leadership in cloud microphysics, weather forecast modeling, and innovative cloud-computing technologies for worldwide distribution of satellite data; and for the development of unique products used by a variety of government agencies in support of disaster response and assessment.

Dr. Colleen B. Mouw, Michigan Technological University 
For outstanding research in oceanography and earth science, developing capabilities for translating research into valuable applications, supporting state and federal agencies in solving water quality and public health issues, and dedication to education and public outreach.

Dr. Vikram Shyam, NASA Glenn Research Center 
For outstanding technical innovations which have impacted NASA's fundamental aeronautics research in reducing fuel consumption for aircraft engines, novel improved flow control methods, and distributed propulsion concepts; and for community outreach activities.

National Science Foundation

Dr. Adam R. Abate, University of California, San Francisco 
For development of microfluidic approaches in creating single-cell bioreactors that can be implemented across a variety of disciplines including evolutionary biology, immunology, and cancer biology; and for outreach to underrepresented groups and veterans.

Dr. Marcel Agüeros, Columbia University 
For groundbreaking research in stellar astrophysics, and for his restless desire to ensure that minority students in sciences become tomorrow’s leaders.

Dr. Arezoo Motavalizadeh Ardekani, Purdue University 
For research aimed at fundamentally understanding, modelling, and controlling bacterial biofilm formation through imaginative computations and elegant experiments, and for demonstrated commitment to increasing underrepresented minority participation in STEM related research. 

Dr. Cullen Richard Buie, Massachusetts Institute of Technology 
For research to create highly sensitive systems to probe microbial physiology and thereby illustrate the coupling of cell phenotypes with virulence, and for efforts to train a new generation of underrepresented minority scientists who become faculty.

Dr. Erin E. Carlson, University of Minnesota
For discovery of chemistry underlying a new approach to treat antibiotic-resistant infections; for leadership in the chemistry and women-chemists communities; and for developing new hands-on laboratory activities to engage K-12 students in natural product chemistry.

Dr. Antonius Bernardus Dieker, Columbia University 
For outstanding research on the stochastic behavior in engineered and physical systems, and for educational activities involving high school, undergraduate, and graduate students.

Dr. Erika Jeannine Edwards, Brown University 
For innovative research leading to exciting breakthroughs in understanding the drivers of plant evolutionary innovation, and particularly the evolution of plant form and photosynthesis systems, and for engaging public outreach on plant biology.

Dr. J. Elisenda Grigsby, Boston College 
For work on the invariants of 3-manifolds, running advanced workshops, training graduate and undergraduate students; for contributions to increasing participation of women in mathematical sciences; and for introducing talented middle-school girls to research mathematics.

Dr. Todd M. Gureckis, New York University 
For innovative work at the boundary of cognitive science, learning science, and machine learning; for work with museums to enhance the learning potential for children; and for creating an integrated, multidisciplinary curriculum for computational cognitive science for the 21st century workforce. 

Dr. Tessa Michelle Hill, University of California, Davis 
For transdisciplinary research that places modern ocean acidification and ocean oxygenation into a long-term Earth-system context, and for training and outreach to K-12 teachers and students that offers them a better understanding of ocean science and climate change through inquiry-based learning.

Dr. Daniel Krashen, University of Georgia 
For work on local-to-global principles, organizing conferences workshops, training graduate students, and serving as a role model for underrepresented minorities in mathematics. 

Dr. Rahul Mangharam, University of Pennsylvania 
For inventing a new formal methodology to test and verify the correct operation of medical device software, helping to save lives and reduce care costs.

Dr. David J. Masiello, University of Washington 
For cutting edge research in the emerging field of theoretical molecular nanophotonics and for comprehensive educational and outreach programs, including an exemplary focus on enhancing the scientific communication abilities of young researchers. 

Dr. Dan McCloskey, College of Staten Island, City University of New York 
For research combining modeling, neurophysiology, and systems biology/network science that will transform the field of social neuroscience by providing a comprehensive approach towards understanding the role of neuropeptides in complex behavioral systems. 

Dr. Shwetak Patel, University of Washington 
For inventing low-cost, easy-to-deploy sensor systems that leverage existing infrastructures to enable users to track household energy consumption and make the buildings we live in more responsive to our needs.

Dr. Aaron Roth, University of Pennsylvania 
For visionary research on protecting personal data via differential privacy, and for outstanding outreach that fosters interaction between the many communities that study data privacy, from theoretical computer science to economics.

Dr. Sayeef Salahuddin, University of California, Berkeley 
For pioneering research on the foundations of nanostructures as new low power electronics with potential influence on energy efficient systems, and for impact on industry, education, and mentoring future scientists.

Dr. Jakita Nicole Owensby Thomas, Spelman College 
For outstanding research on variations by which African American middle school girls develop computational algorithmic thinking through game design and increase their awareness of career applications in industry.

Dr. Joachim Walther, University of Georgia 
For building research capacity in engineering education by defining quality in qualitative research methods, and for leading communities of practice in this research, germane to and commonly used in broadening participation efforts.

Dr. Kristen Bethke Wendell, Tufts University
For outstanding research work on how to integrate a community-based engineering design model into pre-service science elementary school teachers focused on crosscutting concepts, disciplinary core ideas, and scientific and engineering practices. 

Dr. Benjamin Stanford Williams, University of California, Los Angeles 
For a comprehensive vision to advance Terahertz quantum-cascade lasers and devices for communications, sensing, and imaging; and for leadership in enhancing undergraduate and graduate student learning experiences.


Fae Jencks, Senior Policy Advisor, Public Engagement in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy