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ICAM Members Honored by US President Barack Obama for Their Work

Tue, August 16, 2011

In November of 2010, ICAM Members Ivan Smalyukh (University of Colorado at Boulder) and Emilia Morosan (Rice University) were honored by President Barack Obama for their work. Morosan was nominated by the Department of Defense, Air Force Office for Scientific research (DOD AFOSR).  According to the White House, the Presidential Award for Early Career Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) is “the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.”  Smalyukh and Morosan were among the 85 researchers who received the award in 2010.  The award, established by President Clinton in 1996, offers significant research funding for up to five years.

Smalyukh and Morosan were honored in a formal ceremony in December 2010, and it included a brief meeting with President Obama. In addition, PECASE recipients engaged in informal discussions throughout the day.  Smalyukh found these discussions to be invaluable and says he formed many valuable relationships that may lead to collaborations in the future.  Morosan also enjoyed networking with her fellow recipients and remarked that she was “impressed by the work being recognized.”

Both Morosan and Smalyukh have specific plans for the funding they were awarded – these plans involve research and education.  Morosan’s research in superconductivity aims to search for materials that may transport energy more efficiently or that can have great potential in the medical applications.  Her PECASE funding will allow her to purchase materials and supplies, but, most importantly, to support graduate students and postdocs involved in the research.  Smalyukh also plans to use his PECASE funding in support of graduate students involved in his research on colloidal nanoparticle self assembly for photonic and renewable energy applications.  “The funding coming with the award is mostly to support graduate research assistants in my group, with a smaller fraction available for materials and supplies,” he says.  His research at CU-Boulder is on the emergent molecular and colloidal liquid crystalline self-assembly phenomena in soft matter physics that may find important renewable and sustainable energy applications.

Though these two award winners are able to use their funding in individual ways, Morosan and Smalyukh agree on the many benefits of the ICAM community. “ICAM provides an invaluable network of collaborators and workshops, which translates into interactions with prominent researchers of various backgrounds” says Morosan.  “It is this wealth of expertise that facilitates the emergence of ideas, and I have benefited greatly from this already.”

Speaking of his relationship with ICAM, Smalyukh sees the connection as truly symbiotic.  Having been involved with ICAM for 10 years, Smalyukh claims that “some of the best research ideas that [he] recently had came from the talks and poster sessions at ICAM meetings.”  He credits ICAM with enabling him to meet and work with researchers from across the globe:  “Because of ICAM, I have been able to establish many research collaborations in the US and also with researchers from other countries. These collaborations, in many cases, would be impossible without the exchange of ideas at various ICAM meetings and without ICAM’s support in the form of exchange awards and travel grants for visiting students and postdocs.”  Smalyukh also leads I-CAMP, an annual summer school supported by ICAM.

Smalyukh appreciates the opportunity to give back to the ICAM community that has enriched his career.  He explains that the soft condensed matter systems that his group studies are great examples of complex adaptive matter and the phenomena that we study are emergent in their nature.  Throughout his career, he has been inspired by scientists like those in the ICAM community.  He hopes that by receiving the PECASE award he will be more able to do the same for other young scientists. “I hope that our work will be catalyzing research of other scientists (especially early-career researchers like students and postdocs), just as other research was for me,” he says.  “If there are students or postdocs interested in the research directions of our group (liquid crystals, colloids, photonics), they are always welcome to contact me and discuss the possibilities of conducting research in my group.”

The White House press release is available here.  For more information about I-CAMP, visit http://icamconferences.org/i-camp.html.  ICAM extends our sincere congratulations to Emilia and Ivan, and we look forward to hearing of their future contributions and achievements.


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