White House Names Two Georgia Tech Professors PECASE Honorees

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Contact: Matt Nagel
Jul 23, 2012 | Atlanta, GA

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Biology Assistant Professor Meghan Duffy

The White House named Baratunde Cola, assistant professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, and Meghan Duffy, assistant professor in the School of Biology, two of 96 recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). The award is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.  

According to the White House, the PECASE awards embody the high priority the Obama Administration places on producing outstanding scientists and engineers to advance the nation’s goals, tackle grand challenges and contribute to the American economy. 

“My interests and accomplishments are shaped by the ethos of my family, friends and all of those who have supported and encouraged me,” said Cola, who is the director of the NanoEngineered Systems and Transport Lab (NEST). “I am thrilled to have an opportunity to represent them on this national stage.  I feel honored to be considered in this group and to be able to share our discoveries of new ways to improve the conversion of waste heat to electricity with a wider audience. “

“Receiving this award is a tremendous honor,” said Duffy. “ One thing I love about my research is that it combines a lot of different approaches – for example, we go out in the field and get muddy, but then also come back to the lab and use advanced molecular techniques to study these parasites. And the goal of all of that is to answer questions that I think are really important, such as what allows disease outbreaks to occur?"

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Baratunde Cola, Assistant Professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering (click to view larger).

Awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education or community outreach.

According to the White House, Cola was selected for his outstanding research on energy conversion, nanoscale transport and materials; and for significant outreach and educational activities involving K-12 science and art students and teachers from disadvantaged minority communities.

Cola believes that with jobs and energy arguably at the center of public discourse right now that his research on nanoengineered energy technologies is highly relevant, thus the possibilities are very exciting.

“The challenges and opportunities of nanoscience and nanoengineering have attracted many great minds to these fields, which makes interactions with students and colleagues within the community very rewarding personally,” said Cola.  “Most of all, I have found that the mix of energy and nanoengineering has opened wide the door to a multifaceted life as a teacher-researcher-entrepreneur, which is exactly where I want to be right now. “         

The White House also noted that Duffy was selected for her research on rapid evolution of host-parasite interactions and in creating educational opportunities for college students in underrepresented minority groups and inner-city K-12 students in Atlanta.

“My lab has begun to do work on parasites that can infect multiple host species, which are known as multihost parasites,” said Duffy. “The system I work on allows us to study these parasites in natural settings, as well as do manipulative experiments on them in the lab, which is a rare and powerful combination. We're hoping to figure out things like how parasites jump from one host to another, and the challenges they need to overcome in order to infect multiple host species.”

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