Two UF professors win Presidential Award for Young Researchers -- one is married to last year's winner from UF

April 10, 2000

GAINESVILLE --- Two University of Florida researchers have won one of the nation's most prestigious awards for outstanding young scientists and engineers.

Richard Elston, a UF associate professor of astronomy, and Zhuomin Zhang, a UF assistant professor of mechanical engineering, will be recognized at a White House ceremony Wednesday for receiving the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, or PECASE award. The White House describes the award as "the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding scientists and engineers who are in the early stages of establishing their independent research careers."

Five UF researchers have received the PECASE award since the program was launched in 1996. Last year's recipient was Elston's wife, Elizabeth Lada, also an associate professor of astronomy. Lada will return Washington D.C. this week to serve as a keynote speaker at a National Science Foundation ceremony preceding the White House ceremony.

The award includes a $500,000 research grant for each faculty member. The grants will be administered over a five-year period.

Elston and Zhang said they were overjoyed to learn they were among the 60 researchers nationwide chosen for the award.

"I was extremely excited and happy," Zhang said. "I understand it is a real challenge to live up to this honor, and I am determined to do my best."

Zhang came to UF in 1995 after three years as a guest scientist in the optical technology division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology inGaithersburg,Maryland. He earned his bachelor's in engineering thermophysics at the University of Science and Technology of China and doctorate in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Zhang's research seeks to advance basic science involving heat transfer and thermodynamics and apply the result to cutting-edge technological problems. The research requires a broad spectrum of knowledge, and Zhang has worked with researchers in physics, chemistry and materials science, among other disciplines. Zhang's findings could help improve the manufacturing process for silicon chips and contribute to the development of nanotechnology, among other applications, Zhang said.

"One of our goals is to try to understand the heat transfer process from the micro point of view," Zhang said.

Elston came to UF in 1997 after five years as an astronomer at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. He has a bachelor's in physics from the University of New Mexico and a doctorate in astronomy from the University of Arizona.

Elston's research focuses on how galaxies and other structures emerged in the early universe. He said he will use his PECASE grant to continue his research in this area with an instrument he designed and helped build. The instrument is called the Florida Array Multi-object Imaging Near Infrared Grism Observational Spectrometer, or FLAMINGOS.

Mounted on a large telescope, the 54-inch, tube-shaped instrument will enable observers to examine as many as 100 galaxies at one time, he said.

"In the past, we could observe only one object in a night," he said. "With FLAMINGOS, we'll be able to observe in one night what used to require 100 nights. So we can do things we wouldn't have even thought about doing before."

UF Interim President Charles Young said the selection of Elston and Zhang as UF's latest PECASE winners is a reflection of the talent of UF's faculty members and the high quality of its research programs.

"Drs. Elston and Zhang are to be commended for achieving this unparalleled honor so early in their academic careers," Young said. "The entire University of Florida community is enhanced by the extraordinary dedication they have demonstrated to their chosen professions."
-end-


University of Florida

Related Astronomy Articles from Brightsurf:

Spitzer space telescope legacy chronicled in Nature Astronomy
A national team of scientists Thursday published in the journal Nature Astronomy two papers that provide an inventory of the major discoveries made possible thanks to Spitzer and offer guidance on where the next generation of explorers should point the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) when it launches in October 2021.

New technology is a 'science multiplier' for astronomy
A new study has tracked the long-term impact of early seed funding obtained from the National Science Foundation on many key advances in astronomy over the past three decades.

Powerful new AI technique detects and classifies galaxies in astronomy image data
Researchers at UC Santa Cruz have developed a powerful new computer program called Morpheus that can analyze astronomical image data pixel by pixel to identify and classify all of the galaxies and stars in large data sets from astronomy surveys.

Astronomy student discovers 17 new planets, including Earth-sized world
University of British Columbia astronomy student Michelle Kunimoto has discovered 17 new planets, including a potentially habitable, Earth-sized world, by combing through data gathered by NASA's Kepler mission.

Task force recommends changes to increase African-American physics and astronomy students
Due to long-term and systemic issues leading to the consistent exclusion of African-Americans in physics and astronomy, a task force is recommending sweeping changes and calling for awareness into the number and experiences of African-American students studying the fields.

How to observe a 'black hole symphony' using gravitational wave astronomy
New research led by Vanderbilt astrophysicist Karan Jani presents a compelling roadmap for capturing intermediate-mass black hole activity.

Graphene sets the stage for the next generation of THz astronomy detectors
Researchers from Chalmers University of Technology have demonstrated a detector made from graphene that could revolutionize the sensors used in next-generation space telescopes.

3D holograms bringing astronomy to life
Scientists unravelling the mysteries of star cluster formation have taken inspiration from a 19th century magic trick, to help explain their work to the public.

The vibrating universe: Making astronomy accessible to the deaf
Astronomers at the University of California, Riverside, have teamed with teachers at the California School for the Deaf, Riverside, or CSDR, to design an astronomy workshop for students with hearing loss that can be easily used in classrooms, museums, fairs, and other public events.

Prehistoric cave art reveals ancient use of complex astronomy
As far back as 40,000 years ago, humans kept track of time using relatively sophisticated knowledge of the stars

Read More: Astronomy News and Astronomy Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.