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Four Faculty Members Earn NSF CAREER Awards


Funding, Prestige in Future for Four Young UC Riverside Faculty Members

National Science Foundation Expects Greatness of Engineers, Physicist

(March 22, 2005)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) -- Three professors from UC Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering and one from the Physics Department have been awarded the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious grant for promising junior faculty members, the foundation has announced.

Assistant professors Stefano Lonardi, Sheldon Tan, Roland Kawakami and David Cocker are among the foundation’s picks for its Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program, which supports the research of young faculty members who are doing great things in their fields. The program funds the work of teacher-scholars it deems the likely academic leaders of the 21st century.

"These awards from the National Science Foundation recognize the talent and
dedication of three promising young faculty members," Mark Matsumoto, interim dean of UCR's Bourns College of Engineering, said of the awards to Lonardi, Tan and Cocker. "In a larger sense, they demonstrate that the faculty of Bourns College of Engineering is competitive with top schools in the fast-moving world of technological research."

Some 400 young faculty members are chosen each year for the CAREER grants, which range from $300,000 to more than $750,000 over five years. More than 2,500 assistant professors from U.S. academic institutions, laboratories, and museums apply each year.

“Winning the funding means that the National Science Foundation sees something special in your career and in your future,” said Mitch Boretz, an administrator at the College of Engineering who has coached faculty members applying for the award.

“It’s not enough to be a great researcher — easily 95 percent of the proposals they see are from great researchers,” Boretz said. “You have to be a great researcher and a great educator. And you win based on how you integrate your research and teaching with community involvement.”

Lonardi's project, in the field of computational molecular biology, aims to give computer users better access to the massive and continually growing quantity of data on the Web. With current technology, he said, most of the information available will never be read by anyone.

Over five years beginning this summer, Lonardi and his team will apply a new family of pattern discovery algorithms to selected problems, first in databases, data compression and computational biology, and later in two-dimensional matrices, which are the basis of a wide array of applications, including analysis of gene expression data.

He plans to involve UCR students in the research, and offer courses for those who might consider entering the new field of bioinformatics -- his specialty -- which combines computer science, statistics and biology.

Electrical engineer Sheldon Tan also plans to draw UCR students into his project, which focuses on improved modeling, simulation and synthesis of mixed-signal/radio frequency(RF)/analog circuits. He will work with the UC LEADS program, he said, to encourage women and members of under-represented racial and ethnic groups to pursue careers and advanced degrees in science and engineering.

Physicist Roland Kawakami is also a degreed electrical engineer, although he teaches in the Physics Department in the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences. His field is experimental condensed matter physics. He works with many different electronic materials -- magnetic semiconductors and metals, epitaxial oxides, nanotubes, molecular crystals and more -- to generate new physical phenomena and perhaps achieve "lab-on-a-chip" experiments of basic physical principles.

David Cocker, a chemical and environmental engineer, will use his research -- investigating how oxides of nitrogen affect formation of secondary organic aerosol, a major component of air pollution -- to develop new teaching units about air pollution for K-12 students. He also will involve UCR students, both in his research and in team teaching at local schools about air quality in the region.

The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…" With an annual budget of about $5.5 billion, it funds about 20 percent of all federally supported basic research in U.S. colleges and universities.

The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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