Carnegie Mellon computational biologist wins PECASE Award

06/13/05

PITTSBURGH-Computational biologist Russell Schwartz of Carnegie Mellon University is being recognized as part of an elite group of the most promising early-career scientists and engineers at a Washington, D.C. ceremony on Monday, June 13.

Schwartz, an assistant professor of biological sciences, is one of 58 young innovators this year to receive the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, or PECASE. Established by the White House in 1996, the PECASE program each year honors approximately 60 scientists and engineers who, early in their careers, have already blended excellence in pioneering research and service to their communities through scientific leadership and outreach activities.

The award recognizes Schwartz's work to improve computer models and simulation methods for biological self-assembly systems, which ultimately will accelerate research into the basic mechanisms of living cells and into applied problems such as drug discovery. The award also will honor Schwartz's teaching plans, which include introducing beginning biology students to computational resources and developing advanced curricula to prepare the next generation of computational biology experts for the new problems they will confront.

"We were very fortunate to recruit Russell Schwartz to our faculty," said Elizabeth Jones, head of Carnegie Mellon's Department of Biological Sciences at the Mellon College of Science (MCS). "He is a creative, highly productive scientist who brings computational biology to bear on interesting problems at scientific interfaces."

Schwartz is one of the 20 PECASE winners selected by the National Science Foundation (NSF) each year from among the most recent NSF Faculty Career Development (CAREER) Program awardees. About 40 awards in each PECASE conferral cycle are given by other government agencies.

The CAREER award, bestowed upon fewer than 400 scientists and engineers each year, is the NSF's most prestigious award for new faculty members. Winners receive five-year grants ranging from $400,000 to nearly $1 million to support their creative integration of research and education to further their institutions' missions. They work in and across a diversity of disciplines, including biological sciences; computer and information science; engineering; education and human resources; geological sciences; mathematical and physical sciences; and social, behavioral and economic sciences.

Schwartz received an NSF CAREER award of $838,000 in June 2004 to support his plans for some of his research and teaching.

Of Schwartz and other PECASE winners, John Marburger III, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy of the United States government, writes, "You are an example to your colleagues and to future generations, and you will help to shape the future through your discoveries and intellectual leadership."

Prior to his joining Carnegie Mellon's Department of Biological Sciences as an assistant professor in 2002, Schwartz worked as an informatics research scientist at Celera Genomics. Before holding this position, he completed a postdoctoral appointment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned a B.S. in computer science and engineering, a master of engineering in electrical engineering and computer science, and a Ph.D. in computer science.

Past PECASE winners who are also Carnegie Mellon faculty include Yoky Matsuoka, assistant professor of computer science and engineering, and Jennifer Lerner, associate professor of social and decision sciences. Both Matsuoka and Lerner were recognized by the PECASE in 2003.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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