Rock Talk

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Honoring the Achievements of Early Career Scientists

Supporting early career scientists is a top NIH priority. Earlier this year I discussed early stage investigators and the programs and policies NIH has implemented to support the next generation of researchers.

Another way we support early career scientists is by recognizing and honoring their achievements. Last week, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) announced  that 20 outstanding NIH-supported early career scientists have been selected for the 2011 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, or PECASE. This award is the highest honor the U.S. government bestows on outstanding scientists and engineers beginning their independent careers. The NIH awardees join 96 other highly accomplished PECASE recipients from a number of federal agencies.

PECASE awardees are not only chosen for their pursuit of innovative, cutting-edge research, but also for their commitment to serving their community, whether it is through scientific leadership or public outreach and education. The grants for those with extramural NIH awards are extended to advance their research. Those supported by intramural NIH funds also are recognized for their achievements.  

I attended a rambunctious award ceremony yesterday at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, officiated by Dr. John Holdren, director of OSTP.  While we were admonished to shut off our cell phones, Eva Pell, the Smithsonian Institution’s under secretary for science, did not want us to quell the exuberance of the families, including the small children in attendance, to give a shout out to all the kids who will be the next generation of remarkable scientists. It was extraordinarily inspiring for the awardees and audience alike.

Later the awardees visited the White House for a meeting and picture with President Obama, for what was likely an event of a lifetime for the recipients. Today, along with NIH Director, Dr. Francis Collins, I will help host a reception for the NIH awardees, their families and staff from the NIH institutes and centers who support their grants.

Of the 20 NIH honorees, 17 are investigators working at institutions around our nation. The others have positions in the NIH intramural programs. The White House website has the complete list of the 2011 PECASE recipients across all federal agencies. 

Since the program began in 1996 NIH has funded a total of 213 PECASE recipients. A complete list of NIH-supported PECASE recipients and program information is available online.

Congratulations to all of the awardees. I look forward to meeting them today, and having the opportunity to thank them in person for all their contributions to biomedical research, the scientific community and teaching the public about science. And let’s hear it for the kids of all ages aspiring to careers in science; we’ll be watching you for the next great idea!

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