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Five UC researchers win president's 'early career award', and more...

16 September 2004

Five UC researchers win president’s ‘early career award’

Five Berkeley researchers received the nation’s highest award for scientists in the early stages of their careers at a White House ceremony on Thursday, Sept. 9.

Stuart D. Bale, Michael Eisen, Kara Nelson, Kimmen Sjölander, and Brian Wirth were presented with the 2003 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE).

The Berkeley honorees are among 57 scientists from around the country to receive the prestigious award, initiated in 1996. UC Berkeley has more awardees than any other institution in the country.

Stuart D. Bale, an assistant professor of physics and associate director of UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory, leads a group that builds satellite instruments to study the interaction of ionized particles from the sun with the Earth’s magnetic field. He and colleagues currently are building a set of experiments for NASA’s STEREO mission to study the generation and evolution of coronal mass ejections, which are enormous solar eruptions whose triggering mechanism, evolution and role in solar physics are largely unknown.

Michael B. Eisen, assistant professor of molecular and cell biology and a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is an expert in computational and evolutionary biology who in 2003 co-founded the Public Library of Science (PLoS), a web-based, open-access scientific- and medical-publishing venture. He is particularly interested in the evolution of the sequences that control gene expression, and in understanding the role that regulatory evolution has played in the diversification of species.

Kara Nelson, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, conducts innovative research on the use of natural systems — specifically sunlight and oxygen — to treat water contaminated by pathogens, a major public-health challenge in much of the world.

Nelson’s research on ultraviolet (UV) light and photo-oxidation, both of which lead to cell damage of waterborne pathogens, may eventually lead to better water-treatment-plant designs and a re-evaluation of water quality standards, particularly in developing countries.

Kimmen Sjölander, assistant professor of bioengineering and head of UC Berkeley’s Phylo-genomics Group, is being honored for her work in computational biology to understand the evolution of proteins. Her projects, which involve regular collaborations with experimental biologists, include the study of how proteins confer disease resistance in both plants and animals. Sjölander is also a faculty scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and an affiliated assistant professor in Plant and Microbial Biology.

Brian Wirth, assistant professor of nuclear engineering, is receiving his award in recognition of his work in computational modeling and experiments designed to determine the mechanisms responsible for defects in metals, primarily those resulting from irradiation by neutrons and ions. His research is relevant to predicting when nuclear facilities are no longer safe to operate.

The 57 recipients of the 2003 PECASE award were sponsored by eight different federal agencies. Bale’s work is supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Institutes of Health supports Eisen’s research. The National Science Foundation sponsors the research of Nelson and Sjölander, while the Department of Energy supports Wirth’s research.

Alex Filippenko

Astronomy professor Alex Filippenko will be awarded the 2004 Carl Sagan Prize for Science Popularization on Nov. 6 at Wonderfest, at Stanford’s Hewlett Teaching Center. Awarded by the Trustees of Wonderfest and the Bay Area Festival of Science, the prize honors an outstanding devotion to the public understanding of science.

Garrison Sposito

Garrison Sposito has been selected to receive the Horton Medal — which recognizes outstanding contributions to the geophysical aspects of hydrology — from the American Geophysical Union (AGU), the world’s largest society of earth scientists. Sposito will be awarded the medal “for his seminal and extensive contributions in establishing the physical and chemical foundations of hydrology” at AGU’s annual meeting in San Francisco in December.

The Horton Medal was established in 1974 in honor of famed hydrologist Robert E. Horton. Sposito is only the second Berkeley professor to receive this award; Paul Witherspoon was the first, in 1990. Sposito is a professor in the Division of Ecosystem Sciences in the College of Natural Resources and in the College of Engineering’s Environmental Engineering program.

Cindy Cox

Cindy Cox, an associate professor of music, has been selected to receive a $1,500 American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers (ASCAP) Panel Award as a composer member of the organization’s Concert/Symphonic Department. An independent panel granted the award, based upon what ASCAP calls “the unique prestige value of each writer’s catalog of original compositions, as well as recent performances in areas not surveyed by the Society.” The Los Angeles Philharmonic, the National Symphony, the Oakland Sym-phony, the Women’s Philharmonic, the Kronos and Alexander String Quartets, the San Francisco Con-temporary Music Players, the Paul Dresher Ensemble, and Earplay have all recently performed Cox’s compositions.