Three Alumni Named as PECASE Honorees

Thursday, July 25, 2019

David Markowitz, Christina Payne and Alejandro Rodriguez

Three alumni of the Department of Energy Computational Science Graduate Fellowship (DOE CSGF) are among those receiving the 2019 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

The award, announced July 2, recognizes young researchers who show exceptional promise for leadership in science and technology. Each was nominated by a federal department or agency.

The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC), a federation of 17 agencies, nominated David Markowitz, a fellow from 2005-2009. He’s now a program manager at the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), the USIC’s high-risk, high-reward research arm, where he manages initiatives at the interface between biology and computer science. Markowitz was nominated for his “innovative research at the intersection of neuroscience, machine learning and high-performance computing.”

The National Science Foundation (NSF) nominated Christina Payne, a fellow from 2003-2007. She now directs the NSF’s Molecular Separations Program in the Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems. Payne also is an adjunct associate professor of chemical and materials engineering at the University of Kentucky. Her PECASE selection is related to a previous NSF Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) award supporting Payne’s study of the mechanisms governing the actions of a class of enzymes that decompose biomass into sugars.

The NSF also nominated Alejandro Rodriguez, a fellow from 2006-2010 and now an associate professor of electrical engineering at Princeton University. The PECASE recognizes Rodriguez’s theoretical and computational research in nanophotonics – the study of light in artificial materials with features on the scale of electromagnetic waves. His group has focused on thermal radiation and quantum fluctuation interactions at the nanoscale (millionths of a meter), including theoretical bounds on thermal emission (the red glow of heated bodies) from nanostructured materials and new predictions of nanoscale forces due to the quantum effects of light. Rodriguez’s PECASE selection also is related to a previous CAREER award.

Established in 1996, the PECASE acknowledges the contributions of researchers to advance science, technology, engineering and mathematics education and to community service through scientific leadership, public education and community outreach. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy coordinates the PECASE with participating departments and agencies.