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UT Austin scientist to receive $500,000 presidential award at White House reception for outstanding contribution to research

Dr. Angela M. Belcher, who has done pioneering research at The University of Texas at Austin in combining organic and inorganic substances to produce new materials, has been chosen to receive the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

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AUSTIN, Texas—Dr. Angela M. Belcher, who has done pioneering research at The University of Texas at Austin in combining organic and inorganic substances to produce new materials, has been chosen to receive the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

The presidential award is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding scientists and engineers as they begin their careers. The $500,000, five-year award is intended to recognize researchers who demonstrate exceptional potential for leadership at the frontiers of scientific knowledge.

Belcher, an assistant professor in the department of chemistry and biochemistry and UT Austin’s Texas Materials Institute, will be honored at a reception at the White House on Tuesday (Oct. 24). She is one of 59 young researchers nationwide to receive the award this year.

President Bill Clinton, who established the award in 1996, said: “These extraordinarily gifted young scientists and engineers represent the best in our country. Through their talent, ability and dedication, they will quicken the pace of discovery and put science and technology to work advancing the human condition as never before.”

Belcher’s work cuts across the fields of inorganic chemistry, materials chemistry, molecular biology and electrical engineering. Her research involves combining proteins from viruses with inorganic elements commonly used as semiconductors to produce hybrids called electronic biocomposite materials. Belcher and her UT Austin research team are taking processes found in nature to produce substances, such as shell and bone, and extending them to substances commonly used in construction of electronic components. They hope to develop materials that can be used to produce transistors, wires, connectors, sensors and computer chips far smaller than anything manufactured so far.

“It is a huge honor to have my research recognized as being one of the leading-edge topics in the United States,” Belcher said. “We are going to be working on using biology to direct the growth of nano-scale magnetic and semiconductor materials.”

Belcher, who has taught at UT Austin since January 1999, grew up in San Antonio and was graduated from the University of California-Santa Barbara 10 years ago with a degree in creative studies, emphasizing biochemistry and molecular biology. She earned her Ph.D. in chemistry doing interdisciplinary research on organic and inorganic interfaces (connections) and biomaterials. Belcher switched to postdoctoral research in UCSB’s department of electrical and computer engineering and The Center for Quantized Electronic Structures.

Some of Belcher’s recent awards include the 2000 Beckman Young Investigator Award, the 1999 Du Pont Young Investigator Award, the 1999 Army Research Office Young Investigators Award, the IBM Faculty Partnership Award, the 1997 Outstanding Graduate Student Award in Chemistry given by the University of California, and the 1996 Outstanding Chemistry Graduate Student Award given by the American Institute of Chemists.

The presidential award embodies the high priority placed by the U.S. government on maintaining America’s leadership position in science. The awards identify a cadre of outstanding scientists and engineers expected to make broad advances in science, as well as the missions of participating agencies.

To be eligible for the presidential award, a recipient must be recommended by participating agencies including the national Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense, the National Institutes of Healthy, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Commerce. Belcher was recommended by the Department of Defense.

For more information, contact Dr. Angela Belcher at (512) 471-1154. For photos, contact Marsha Miller at (512) 471-3151.