Epps among PECASE recipients honored at White House
From left, John Holdren, White House science policy director; Thomas H. Epps, III, of the University of Delaware; and Zachary Lemnios, Department of Defense director of defense research and engineering.
President Barack Obama greets PECASE winners. Photo courtesy of the White House

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9:37 a.m., Jan. 20, 2010----Thomas H. Epps, III, assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Delaware, was part of an elite group of young scientists and engineers honored by President Barack Obama at the White House on Wednesday, Jan. 13.

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Epps and 99 others from across the United States received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest award bestowed by the U.S. government upon scientists and engineers in the early stages of their independent research careers.

“The ceremony and related PECASE events were an exciting moment for me and my family,” Epps says. “The opportunity to meet President Obama, tour the White House, interact with other PECASE winners, and meet with officials instrumental in shaping the research direction of the nation was an extremely rewarding experience.”

In a letter that was delivered to the winners during the ceremony, Obama wrote, “You have been selected for this honor not only because of your innovative research, but also for your demonstrated commitment to community service and public outreach. Your achievements as scientists, engineers, and engaged citizens are exemplary, and the value of your work is amplified by the inspiration you provide to others.”

The president's meeting with the winners built on the events of the previous week, when expansion of the “Educate to Innovate” campaign was announced. Both that campaign and the PECASE ceremony showcased Obama's focus on America's need for a world-class science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce.

Established by President Bill Clinton in 1996, PECASE is coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President. Awardees are selected on the basis of two criteria: pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and a commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach.

Winning scientists and engineers receive up to a five-year research grant to further their study in support of critical government missions. Epps will receive his grant from the Department of Defense, one of nine federal departments and agencies that join to nominate the young researchers for the awards. His research targets materials design and fabrication to create conducting membranes for current and next-generation energy generation and storage devices, such as batteries, fuel cells and solar cells.

Epps earned bachelor's and master's degrees at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a doctoral degree at the University of Minnesota. He joined the UD faculty in 2007 after completing postdoctoral work as a National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow in the Polymers Division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Md.

Epps has won a number of honors and awards, including a National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development Award, an Air Force Young Investigator grant, and the Lloyd Ferguson Young Scientist Award from the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers. He is also co-director of an NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates program at UD focused on energy and sustainability.

Article by Diane Kukich

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