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, the White House announced February 18. PECASE 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.”
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 a number of tools, including novel high-throughput 3D microparticle printers to next-generation measurements of rare cells that promise to improve the speed and accuracy of 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, 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 is a member of the California NanoSystems Research Institute and director of the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Cancer Nanotechnology Program.
Jonathan Hopkins is leading research into designing and fabricating advanced flexible structures, mechanisms and materials to enable the creation of new technologies. He leads the Flexible Research Group at UCLA, which is exploring microarchitectured materials, additive fabrication, microelectromechanical systems, soft robots and medical devices.
Last year, his group received a $510,000 grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research to help facilitate research involving the design and fabrication of microarchitectured materials with programmable properties for purposes of advanced studies of fluid dynamics.
Hopkins received his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was a postdoctoral researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory before joining UCLA in 2013.
Ben Williams’ Terahertz Devices and Intersubband Nanostructures Group is focused on the development of high-quality, powerful lasers. Specifically, Williams is developing devices that work in the terahertz range of frequencies, which occupies the space on the electromagnetic spectrum between microwave and infrared. Terahertz waves can be used to analyze plastics, clothing, semiconductors and works of art without damaging the materials being examined; for chemical sensing and identification; and to investigate the formation of stars and composition of planetary atmospheres.
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.