UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science professor Jennifer Jay has been chosen as one of only 20 young National Science Foundation (NSF)-supported scientists and engineers to receive the prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE).

Bestowed by President George W. Bush, PECASE is the highest national honor for investigators in the early stages of promising scientific careers. Recipients are chosen based on research accomplishments and the integration of that research with significant educational contributions.

“I’m delighted and honored to have been chosen for this award,” said Jay. “I am very passionate about the research projects we are undertaking because they are helping to solve important environmental problems. And I feel so fortunate to be able to contribute in some small way to addressing the inequities that exist in K-12 education.”

School of Engineering Dean Vijay K. Dhir added, “Jennifer Jay’s Presidential Early Career Award is another example of the high quality of our School’s faculty and their dedication to forward-thinking research and education. We are delighted that Jennifer has been recognized for her many accomplishments and the important contributions she has yet to make.”

Jay, a Civil and Environmental Engineering professor, is researching the environmental factors contributing to mercury contamination of food chains, a worldwide problem. Along with her team, she is studying the microbial transformation of mercury in wetlands and the accumulation of mercury in endangered sea turtles, among other topics. Jay also collaborates with local non-profit groups to answer research questions concerning the microbial water quality at local California beaches.

In addition to her research efforts, Jay also has developed an innovative service-learning course in which UCLA student learn and then teach environmental engineering concepts to sixth grade classrooms of economically disadvantaged students in Los Angeles, helping to promote increased involvement and diversity in environmental engineering. This year, UCLA students taking the course helped the sixth graders with hands-on water quality testing, gave tours of a restored wetland, and finally invited the sixth graders to UCLA for demonstrations of robotic environmental samplers in conjunction with another project being developed at the university.

The 20 NSF-supported researchers will receive their awards from John H. Marburger III, science advisor to the president and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, at an awards ceremony being held at the White House today.

Marburger will deliver the commencement address at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science in Los Angeles on June 18.

“These Presidential awardees are the young people who will lead our nation’s progress in science and engineering as they leap the fences, cross the boundaries and build the blocks of new and exciting areas of science,” said Arden L. Bement, Jr., NSF director. “They also pass on to many students their imaginative thinking, built into creative educational activities – a form of leadership that can influence career choices and help invigorate the science and engineering enterprise.”

The 2005 PECASE awardees consist of six engineers including Jay, four computer and information scientists, four faculty in the mathematical and physical sciences, and three biologists. The president also named an education researcher, a behavioral scientist and a population biologist to receive the award, bringing to 180 the number of NSF-supported PECASE recipients since 1996.

NSF, which supports fundamental research in science and engineering across nearly all fields, has nominees chosen from between 350 and 400 junior researchers and faculty who have received grants from NSF’s Faculty Early Career Program (CAREER) in the same year of their nomination for the President’s award. CAREER awards are among the most prestigious that NSF gives, reaching the most promising young researchers in science and engineering who have also translated their work into significant education activities. The monetary awards for CAREER range from $400,000 to nearly $1 million over five years to support their career research and education goals.

For more information on PECASE and CAREER, see http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=5262&from=fund.