President Barack Obama Jan. 9 named 102 scientists and researchers as recipients of the Presidential Early-Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers.

The PECASE is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.

“I congratulate these outstanding scientists and engineers on their impactful work,” Obama said in a statement. “These innovators are working to help keep the United States on the cutting edge, showing that federal investments in science lead to advancements that expand our knowledge of the world around us and contribute to our economy.”

The awards highlight the key role that the administration places in encouraging and accelerating American innovation to grow our economy and tackle our greatest challenges, the White House said.

Employers and funders among the 2017 recipients include the Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of the Interior, Department of Veterans Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Science Foundation, Smithsonian Institution and the Intelligence Community, it said.

These departments and agencies nominate the most meritorious scientists and engineers whose early accomplishments show the greatest promise for assuring America’s preeminence in science and engineering and contributing to the awarding agencies' missions, the statement added.

Pankaj Lal, an Indian American professor at Montclair State University, was among the Department of Agriculture recipients.

In the Department of Defense, recipients included Kaushik Chowdhury of Northeastern University.

Manish Arora, of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, was a recipient from the Department of Health and Human Services. Joining Arora are Kashmira Date of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the National Science Foundation area, UCLA's Aradhna Tripati was among the recipients.

Pakistani American Nasia Safdar earned an award in the Department of Veterans Affairs area. Safdar is at the Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital.

Established by President Bill Clinton in 1996, the awards are coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President.

Awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education or community outreach.

Lal, who earned his master's degree from the Delhi School of Economics, is an associate professor in the department of earth and environmental studies at Montclair. 

Undertaking interdisciplinary research that explores interconnections among society and the environment, he has been working on environmental economics and economic geography, human dimensions of ecosystem management, natural resource conservation and policy and climate change. 

Chowdhury, who received his Ph.D. from the Georgia Institute of Technology, directs the Next Generation Networks and Systems Lab. He is the winner of the "NSF CAREER" award in 2015 and the Office of Naval Research Director of Research Early Career Award in 2016.

An environmental epidemiologist and exposure biologist, Arora's research focuses on the effects of prenatal and early childhood chemical exposures on life-long health trajectories. 

He is known for his work on biomarkers that utilize human deciduous and permanent teeth to reconstruct the timing of exposure to various harmful chemicals and essential nutrients. 

At UCLA, Tripati's lab uses the chemistry of natural compounds as well as models as tools to understand how the Earth works to understand climate change, the oceans, and the transfer of carbon between the biosphere, atmosphere and oceans.

Date has her MPH degree from Columbia University, and her MBBS from T.N. Medical College in Mumbai, India.

—With IANS input

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