Three Faculty Win PECASE: Highest Honor for Young Researchers in U.S.

Feb 18, 2016

By UCLA Samueli Newsroom

Three members of the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science faculty are among 105 young researchers from across the country who will receive the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the White House announced today. The award is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on science and engineering researchers in the early stages of their careers.

The awardees from UCLA are: Dino Di Carlo, a professor of bioengineering; Jonathan Hopkins, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and Benjamin Williams, an associate professor of electrical engineering.

“These early-career scientists are leading the way in our efforts to confront and understand challenges from climate change to our health and wellness,” President Obama said in announcing the awards. “We congratulate these accomplished individuals and encourage them to continue to serve as an example of the incredible promise and ingenuity of the American people.”

The awardees will be honored at a reception in early May.

Dino Di Carlo is leading research on unique physics, microenvironment control, and the potential for automation associated with miniaturized systems for applications in basic biology, medical diagnostics, and cellular and tissue engineering. His Biomicrofluidics Laboratory develops of a number of tools from novel high-throughput 3D microparticle printers, to next generation measurements of rare cells that promise to transform blood tests.

Di Carlo has received numerous honors for his work including young researcher awards from the U.S. Office of Naval Research; the National Science Foundation; the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency; the National Institutes of Health; and most recently from the Materials Research Society. He’s also received the Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering; the Coulter Translational Research Award, and the Pioneers of Miniaturization Award.

Di Carlo received his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco and was a postdoctoral scholar at the Center for Engineering in Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. He joined UCLA in 2008 and is a member of the California NanoSystems Research Institute and Director of the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, Cancer Nanotechnology Program.

Jonathan Hopkins is leading research to generate the knowledge necessary to design and fabricate advanced flexible structures, mechanisms, and materials that enable the creation of new high-impact technologies. He leads the Flexible Research Group at UCLA which is exploring: microarchitectured materials; additive fabrication; microelectromechanical systems (MEMS); precision flexure systems; soft robots; and medical devices.

Last year, his group received a $510,000 grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) to help facilitate research involving the design and fabrication of microarchitectured materials with programmable properties.

Hopkins received his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was a post-doctoral researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory before joining UCLA in 2013.

Ben Williams developed some of the first terahertz quantum cascade lasers. Today his Terahertz Devices and Intersubband Nanostructures Group is focused on the study of device physics and development of novel devices that involve the engineering of both the quantum properties of low-dimensional semiconductors in conjunction with engineering of novel electromagnetic structures. These topics intersect for applications involving technology for generation, detection, and control of terahertz and mid-infrared radiation.

His previous awards include a DARPA Young Faculty Award and the NSF CAREER award for researchers who are at an early stage in their careers. Williams is the area director for Physical and Wave Electronics at the UCLA Electrical Engineering Department, and is also a member of the California NanoSystems Institute. He received his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was a post-doctoral scholar there as well. He joined UCLA in 2007.

The PECASE awards were established in 1996. A variety of federal departments and agencies join together annually to nominate scientists and engineers whose early accomplishments show the greatest promise for assuring U.S. preeminence in science and engineering and advancing the nation’s goals.

Di Carlo, Hopkins and Williams bring to 11 the number of UCLA Engineering faculty members who have received a PECASE.

Image left to right: Dino Di Carlo, Jonathan Hopkins, Ben Williams

* Updated 04/13/16 with note on reception.



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