President Obama selected UC Santa Barbara faculty members Benjamin Mazin and Sumita Pennathur as recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers on Monday, recognizing the researchers’ potential with the most prestigious national award for young scientists.
Mazin, an assistant professor of physics, received the recognition for his contribution to ultra-sensitive low-temperature detector arrays called microwave kinetic inductance detectors while Pennathur, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, was awarded for her research in fundamental fluidics at the microscale and nanoscale levels. PECASE was created to spotlight the fields of engineering and science and recognize groundbreaking advancements that have significant impacts on the nation’s future, according to information from the White House.
Mazin’s development of MKiDs detects the energy and arrival time of protons, revolutionizing astronomy research by allowing researchers to identify life-supporting planets similar to Earth by imaging planets around nearby stars.
“In the long run, I hope to use these detectors as part of an effort to directly image planets around nearby stars,” Mazin said. “This could eventually lead to the detection of life on these planets through spectroscopy of their atmospheres. This is an incredibly exciting goal and I am glad to be a part of this.”
Pennathur said she hopes her work in bioanalytical and energy conversion devices will generate advancements in healthcare and environmentally friendly energy solutions.
“I envision everybody having a personal health device, such as an iPhone, that can monitor your health and diagnose you continuously,” Pennathur said. “I think my research in nanofluidics may enable breakthroughs towards that sort of a goal. Similarly, nanoscale energy conversion would allow people to have portable energy conversion schemes — like putting a chip in the bottom of your shoe to harvest the pressure generated from walking — that would allow for novel green energy solutions.”
Vice Chancellor for Research Mike Witherell said the awards are indicative of our campus’ high quality faculty and research.
“This is the highest national award for faculty early in their career, so it’s a good leading indicator of how the university is doing,” Witherell said. “Most of our faculty [is] built from the inside, from assistant professors on up, so this is very important and indicative that we have assistant professors that are among the very best in the country.”
The awards will be presented Oct. 14 in Washington, D.C.