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Rensselaer’s CAREER Award Winners

A listing of Rensselaer’s CAREER Award winners by year, and a brief description of their research.
Great Expectations

“At the very core of The Rensselaer Plan is our determination to achieve an undisputed position among the top echelon of research universities,” President Shirley Ann Jackson says. “To accomplish this, we are dramatically increasing, broadening, and improving our participation in leading-edge research and graduate education. The faculty are the key to our success.

“The goal is to enlarge the Rensselaer faculty by almost one-third in the next seven to eight years consistent with our overall growth, including in research,” Jackson says. “Excellence is the key metric. These CAREER Award winners are among the best and brightest young faculty in the nation. They will add new strength and energy to already robust programs and give impetus to entirely new explorations and collaborations,” she predicts.

The CAREER Award winners work alongside a high-caliber faculty that includes a Nobel Laureate, a Topaz Medallion winner, and members of the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences, and other eminent professional organizations.

“Excellence is more important than mere numbers,” says Provost Bud Peterson. “But the growing volume of CAREER Award winners is very significant. The combination of numbers and excellence portends great things for the future of Rensselaer.”

There is no telling what kind of success researchers of this caliber can achieve or the magnitude of their potential impact on the Institute.

For a look at what’s possible, consider, for example, Professor Bruce Watson, one of Rensselaer’s most highly regarded scholars. Watson joined the Rensselaer faculty as assistant professor in 1977. Today he is Institute Professor of Science and one of the university’s most valued researchers. His many honors include a seat on the National Academy of Sciences. (The NAS was established in 1863 by an act of Congress; induction remains among the highest honors that can be accorded a scientist in the United States.)

Early in his career, Bruce Watson was named an NSF Presidential Young Investigator—the precursor of today’s CAREER Award.

Watson is just one of many senior Rensselaer faculty who parlayed early encouragement of one form or another into a lifetime of accomplishment. If only a handful of Rensselaer’s 25 CAREER Award winners are similarly successful—and all indications are that many of them will be—the impact on the university will be stunning.

The first of the winners are well established in their careers today.

Xi-Cheng Zhang joined the Rensselaer faculty in 1992. In 1995 he was one of the 337 scientists and engineers selected from a field of 1,735 contenders for the first CAREER Awards. That four-year grant, what he terms “a good start,” gave him “the stability and confidence that helped build an independent research and education program,” he says. Many awards and honors have followed.

A pioneer in the field of terahertz imaging, Zhang holds 12 patents and disclosures and has received more than $7 million in grants from the NSF, the Army Research Office, and the Department of Energy. Last year he was elected a fellow of the Optical Society of America and of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and was named J. Erik Jonsson ’22 Distinguished Professor of Science. Ten of his doctoral students have graduated in the past nine years and he is currently supervising another nine.

In the second year of the program, 1996, Natacha DePaola became the first of four Rensselaer women to win CAREER Awards. That year NSF received 1,865 proposals from which 346 winners were selected.

Today DePaola is associate professor of biomedical engineering and a member of the Institute for Medicine and Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. As director of Rensselaer’s laboratory focused on biofluids and cellular bioengineering, she is one of the leaders of Rensselaer’s growing presence in biotechnology. Her groundbreaking research is expanding the understanding of atherosclerosis, a life-threatening arterial disease, and could have a major impact on developments in vascular surgery.

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Rensselaer Magazine: March 2002
President's View Your Mail From the Archives Hawk Talk Class Notes Features
Front Page At Rensselaer Milestones
In Memoriam Making a Difference Staying Connected
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