Four Princeton faculty receive presidential science awards

Tuesday, Jan 7, 2014

Abigail Doyle, Photo by Denise Applewhite, Office of CommunicationsFour Princeton University professors have received the 2013 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their research careers.

The Princeton recipients are: Abigail Doyle, associate professor of chemistry; Yael Niv, assistant professor of psychology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute; Rodney Priestley, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering; and Ramon van Handel, assistant professor of operations research and financial engineering. They are among the 102 researchers at American institutions selected by the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President. The winners will receive their awards at a ceremony next year in Washington, D.C.

Yael Niv, Photo by Quentin Huys"The impressive achievements of these early-stage scientists and engineers are promising indicators of even greater successes ahead," President Barack Obama said in a Dec. 23 release announcing the award. "We are grateful for their commitment to generating the scientific and technical advancements that will ensure America's global leadership for many years to come."

The annual award, established in 1996, recognizes researchers' "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."

Doyle was nominated for the honor by the National Science Foundation. Her research — at the interface of the fields of organic synthesis, organometallic catalysis and physical organic chemistry — involves designing complex organic compounds efficiently, using readily available and inexpensive chemicals as catalysts. She is the recipient of various awards, including the American Chemical Society's Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award, the Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, the Amgen Young Investigator Award, the National Science Foundation's CAREER Award and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship. She joined the Princeton faculty in 2008 after earning her doctorate from Harvard University.

Rodney Priestley, Photo courtesy of Rodney PriestleyNiv was nominated by the Department of Defense for her work studying the neural and computational processes underlying reinforcement learning and decision-making, or how humans come to choose the right actions in the face of rewards and punishments. Among other honors, she is an Ellison Medical Foundation Scholar and was an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellow. A faculty member since 2008, Niv earned her doctorate from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Priestley, who came to Princeton in 2009, was nominated by the Department of Defense. He studies the structure and behavior of polymer materials and the development of new polymer materials with responsive and healing properties. His honors include the Air Force Office of Scientific Research's Young Investigator Award, the National Science Foundation's CAREER Award and the American Chemical Society's Young Investigator Award. Priestley earned his doctorate from Northwestern University.

Ramon van Handel, Photo by Frank Wojciechowski for the School of Engineering and Applied Science

Van Handel, who also was nominated by the Department of Defense, is broadly interested in the areas of probability theory and stochastic analysis, and their applications in science, engineering and mathematics. A member of the faculty since 2009, van Handel has earned awards from the School of Engineering and Applied Science for excellence in teaching, and vibrant teaching and research early in his career. He also has been recognized with the University's Graduate Mentoring Award and the National Science Foundation's CAREER Award. He earned his doctorate from the California Institute of Technology.