Published: Jan. 29, 2014

We can all take pride that three young CU-Boulder faculty members have earned prestigious early career fellowships announced this month by the National Science Foundation and President Obama in separate awards.

As the president said, these "early-stage scientists (are) generating the scientific and technical advancements that will ensure America's global leadership for many years to come.”

Winning a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers is CU-Boulder’s Ana Maria Rey, a theoretical physicist and a JILA fellow. Dr. Rey also claimed our eighth MacArthur Fellowship "genius grant" last fall.

The National Science Foundation’s prestigious CAREER awards includes two CU-Boulder faculty members in the College of Engineering and Applied Science:  Prashant Nagpal, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering, and Franck Vernerey, assistant professor of civil, environmental and architectural engineering.

CU-Boulder attracts significant federal research dollars ($1.8 billion the last five years, most of it returned to the local economy). Those dollars, in turn, finance cutting-edge influential research that attracts up-and-coming young scientists who are staking their careers and reputations on CU-Boulder's research eminence.

I believe the reason brilliant scientists are attracted to us is our unique environment of innovation, exchange and productivity. In recent years we have ranked second in the nation (trailing only the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, and that's just one measure of our success.

Consider that CU-Boulder is in the nation's Top 25 for research publications, No. 8 in research citations and rated 14th internationally for the scholarly impact of our journal publications. For our graduate students, this means their work is done at a proving ground for new discoveries and fueled by interactions with researchers who are literally transforming the scientific landscape daily.

In the classroom, it means that our faculty are migrating these discoveries to our undergraduate students in dynamic and exciting ways, perhaps inspiring new scientists and graduate students, and beginning the cycle of excellence and innovation all over again.

For more evidence of this consider that in January alone four more of our faculty garnered major honors or appointments:

  • Professor Peter Molnar was awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for his groundbreaking research in geophysics and geological sciences.
  • Two faculty were honored by the National Academy of Sciences - Marvin Caruthers, distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry, is the recipient of the NAS Award in Chemical Sciences. Deborah Jin, a physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and a fellow at JILA, is the recipient of the NAS Comstock Prize in Physics, awarded every five years.
  • Nobel laureate and Distinguished Professor Tom Cech was named to the newly created National Commission on Forensic Science. Members of the commission will work to improve the practice of forensic science by developing guidance concerning the intersections between forensic science and the criminal justice system.

In November, physics Professor Steven Pollock was named a 2013 U.S. Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. Professor Pollock is the second CU-Boulder faculty member to win a national Professor of the Year award. Nobel laureate Carl Wieman, also a physics professor, was honored with the designation in 2004.

In the humanities, last semester seven faculty and staff received Fulbright grants to pursue research, teaching and training abroad during the 2013-14 academic year and The Chronicle of Higher Education recognized CU-Boulder as a top-producing research institution of both U.S. Fulbright Scholars and U.S. Fulbright Student awardees in 2013-14.

The 2013-14 CU-Boulder faculty and staff who won Fulbright grants and their destination countries are: Clarence “Skip” Ellis, professor emeritus of computer science, Ghana; Paul Erhard, professor of double bass, India; Nan Goodman, professor of English, Turkey; Kevin Krizek, professor of environmental design, Italy; Jodi Schneiderman, program manager for international employment, Germany; Elisabeth Sheffield, associate professor of English, United Kingdom; and Mark Williams, professor of geography and fellow of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, Nepal. An eighth faculty member, Jeffrey DeShell, professor of English and creative writing, was offered a grant to teach in Norway but was unable to accept the award.

Two professors, David Shneer, professor of history and religious studies, and director of the Program in Jewish Studies, and David Ciarlo, professor of history, won major book awards.

Krister Andersson, associate professor in environmental policy, is part of a team of researchers at CU awarded an NSF Grant to study local health systems in Guatemala. 

At CU, the term “world-class” faculty is not a cliché but a reality that we display regularly. Congratulations to these faculty members and all who support them. It is a credit to all of us that this is a place where transformational discovery and innovation occur and insightful historical and cultural perspective is shared.