Obama honors Rice professors

Morosan, Koushanfar earn Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers

Rice News staff

Two Rice University faculty members have been named recipients of Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) by President Barack Obama.

Emilia Morosan, assistant professor of physics and astronomy and of chemistry, and Farinaz Koushanfar, assistant professor in electrical and computer engineering, are among 85 researchers to earn the honor, the highest bestowed by the United States government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their careers.

Morosan and Koushanfar will travel to Washington, D.C., for an award ceremony on Dec. 13.





President Bill Clinton established the awards in 1996 to honor those who pursue innovative research and are committed to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education or community outreach. The winners are nominated by 10 federal departments and agencies and are expected to tackle grand challenges and contribute to the American economy. Research grants for up to five years often accompany the awards.

“Science and technology have long been at the core of America’s economic strength and global leadership,” Obama said. “I am confident that these individuals, who have shown such tremendous promise so early in their careers, will go on to make breakthroughs and discoveries that will continue to move our nation forward in the years ahead.”

“I’m really excited!” said Morosan, a condensed matter physicist working on the design and synthesis of unconventional superconductors close to magnetic instabilities. “Of course, the recognition is amazing, but the best thing is that I get more funds, and I can hire new people to do more of this great work.

“I was nominated by the Air Force Office of Strategic Research, which is already funding me to work on these new superconductors. I cannot overstate the value of the extra funding as a result of this award,” she said.

Morosan, who has also won a National Science Foundation CAREER Award since coming to Rice, said her lab is looking for compounds with unique interplay between crystallographic, magnetic and transport properties that will make a new generation of practical, high-temperature superconductors possible.

Koushanfar has earned three previous awards for young faculty: a CAREER Award and a Defense Advanced Research Project Agency Young Faculty Award, both in 2007, and an Office of Naval Research (ONR) Young Investigator Program Award in 2009.

She was nominated by the ONR for the presidential honor and expects her grant will contribute to ongoing ONR work that focuses on networking for adaptive and energy-efficient radio communications.

“We’re going to exploit the PECASE grant to focus more on security aspects of low-power and energy-efficient computing and communicating embedded systems,” Koushanfar said. “There is a growing trend in embedding intelligent computation and computation in the physical world, from our schools, homes and shops, to cars and airplanes, and to weapons in the battlefield. These pervasive embedded systems need to be energy-efficient, adaptive and secure.”




About Mike Williams

Mike Williams is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.