Profs. Li and Bielawski named as recepients of PECASE

AUSTIN, Texas–Three scientists in the College of Natural Sciences are among the 2009 recipients of Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on young professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.

The recipients are:

* Christopher Bielawski, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. He will study new ways to create synthetic polymers that have the same degree of sophistication and function as DNA, proteins and other biological polymers prepared by natural systems.
* Gregory A. Fiete, Department of Physics. He studies the collective quantum behavior of electrons. Potential applications could be in high-performance and high-precision electronic devices, and in quantum computing.
* Xiaoqin Li, Department of Physics. Li’s research focuses on the interaction of light and matter on the nano scale. Using laser pulses tiny fractions of seconds long, members of her research group study how electrons interact with each other. The group also works on miniature photonic structures, which may have an impact on future communication and electronic technologies.

All received their awards from the Department of Defense. They will receive up to $1 million over five years to further their study in support of critical government missions. They and the other recipients will be recognized in a White House ceremony.

“These extraordinarily gifted young scientists and engineers represent the best in our country,” said President Barack Obama in an announcement of the awards. “With their talent, creativity and dedication, I am confident that they will lead their fields in new breakthroughs and discoveries and help us use science and technology to lift up our nation and our world.

Nine federal departments and agencies annually nominate the most meritorious young scientists and engineers—researchers whose early accomplishments show the greatest promise for strengthening America’s leadership in science and technology and contributing to the awarding agencies’ missions.