Tom Perkins

Tom Perkins

Two projects led by University of Colorado Boulder researchers are among a select group being recognized with 2017 Governor’s Awards for High-Impact Research. The awards, presented by the CO-LABS consortium, celebrate the groundbreaking work of scientists and engineers from Colorado’s federal research labs.

“The projects in this year’s CO-LABS High-Impact Awards spotlight what makes Colorado a leader in innovation. It’s terrific to see research advance its partnerships with the private sector,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper. “I congratulate the scientific teams for their groundbreaking work and am excited to see the mark they will leave on our state and society as a whole.”

Tom Perkins, fellow of JILA and adjoint professor for the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, is being recognized for “New Twists in the Molecules of Life.” His work focuses on developing powerful new tools to precisely measure and understand individual proteins and nucleic acids as they perform crucial biological functions.

Perkins is working with instrument makers and biotech companies to apply his new technology, the world’s most sensitive atomic force microscope (AFM), creating innovative opportunities for medical diagnostics, treatments and fundamental biomedical research.

“I’m delighted to see the governor and CO-LABS celebrating the diversity of excellent science in Colorado,” said Perkins.

JILA is a joint physics institute between CU Boulder and the National Institute of Standards and Technology that fosters creative collaborations among its scientists.

Kristine Larson

Kristine M. Larson

Also representing CU Boulder with a 2017 Governor’s Award is the GPS Reflections group led by Professor Kristine M. Larson of the Ann and H. J. Smead Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences. In addition to Professor Eric Small of the Department of Geological Sciences at CU Boulder, the group includes researchers from the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Boulder Office.

"I'm glad to see the CO-LAB organization recognizing that great research comes not only from individual labs, but from a collaboration that crosses institutional boundaries," Larson said.

The team’s project “GPS Reflections: Innovative Techniques” explores new ways to use GPS signals, such as tapping data from receivers already deployed for other applications, to aid in fields such as hydrology, phenology, ecology, soil science, atmospheric sciences, ocean sciences and cryospheric sciences. GPS reflection measurements also provide a new data source to validate and calibrate satellite-based Earth observations, informing risk resiliency, such as flood or drought forecasting; supporting natural resource management, especially regarding land-use and farming efficiency; and helping diverse consumers such as those in agriculture, the winter recreational industry and the aerospace industry.

Organizations also receiving 2017 Governor’s Awards include:

  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology – Boulder Laboratories (NIST) for “A New Form of Microscopy: Seeing More with a Scanning Electron Microscope.”
  • The Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA) at Colorado State University (CSU) in collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Satellite and Information Service (NESDIS), Center for Satellite Applications and Research (STAR) and Regional and Mesoscale Meteorology Branch (RAMMB) for “GOES-16 First Light Imagery: Restoring True Color Imagery for the New Generation of Geostationary Weather Satellites.”

The CO-LABS consortium includes Colorado federal research laboratories, research universities, state and local governments, economic development organizations, private businesses and nonprofit organizations. CO-LABS educates the public, businesses, educational organizations and government entities about the value of the federally funded laboratories, creates connections between these sectors and supports retention and expansion of Colorado's scientific resources.

Now in its ninth year, the Governor’s Awards event brings together scientists, researchers, entrepreneurs, business leaders and government officials to celebrate exceptional work.

This year’s honorees will be recognized from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 5, at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Event information is available at