White House dubs young CU scientist among top 100


University of Colorado at Boulder physics Professor Ivan Smalyukh, left, looks at microscopic views of liquid crystals in his laboratory. (Photo by Glenn J. Asakawa/University of Colorado)

University of Colorado at Boulder faculty member Ivan Smalyukh is one of only 100 men and women in the United States to be awarded a coveted 2010 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, or PECASE.

The PECASE awards are the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding scientists and engineers in the early stages of their independent careers. President Barack Obama announced the awards on Nov. 5. The award includes $600,000 of funding from the National Science Foundation over five years.

Smalyukh, an assistant professor in CU-Boulder’s physics department and a member of the university’s Liquid Crystals Materials Research Center, and his students are studying the organization of nanoparticle andmolecular self-assembly related to precisely controlled structures in liquid crystals. The research is expected to help scientists develop new electrically and optically controlled materials that could lead to a number of technological breakthroughs, including more efficient conversion of solar energy into electricity using inexpensive solar cells and the development of flexible display and data storage devices.

“As a scientist and educator, I receive this great honor with deep gratitude,” said Smalyukh. “The PECASE award is a strong encouragement for me and for my students. It will help us in achieving manyimportant and ambitious research goals.”

Established by President Bill Clinton in 1996, the awards are coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President. Awardees are selected on two criteria — the pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and a commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education or community outreach.

Smalyukh also was a winner of the 2009 National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development, or CAREER award, the agency’s most prestigious awards to junior faculty members around the nation.  The NSF nominated Smalyukh for the 2010 PECASE awards.

He also is a founding fellow of the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute, a joint center of CU-Boulder and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Nine federal departments and agencies join together annually to nominate the outstanding young scientists and engineers for the PECASE awards. The recipients are researchers whose early accomplishments show thegreatest promise for strengthening America’s leadership in science and technology and contributing to the awarding agencies’ missions, according to the White House.

This year’s recipients will be honored at a White House ceremony with Obama in early 2011.

By Greg Swenson
CU Office of News Services

November 2010

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