Two University of Texas at Austin faculty members were honored at the White House this week with the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the United States government for science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.
They were among 96 researchers who received the award.
“Discoveries in science and technology not only strengthen our economy, they inspire us as a people,” Obama said. “The impressive accomplishments of the awardees so early in their careers promise even greater advances in the years ahead.”
Cox, 35, will join the Cockrell School faculty in August from the University of Arkansas, where he was an assistant professor in civil engineering. He specializes in geotechnical engineering issues related to earthquake loading, soil dynamics and nondestructive material characterization using stress waves. He has been a part of the Geotechnical Extreme Events Reconnaissance teams deployed immediately after recent major earthquakes including those in New Zealand and Haiti.
“It is truly a great honor to receive this presidential award and to be considered among such an elite group of early-career scientists and engineers,” Cox said. “I am really excited to join the faculty of the Cockrell School of Engineering at UT. This new group of amazing collaborators and facilities will help me carry my research program to a level that would be unobtainable elsewhere.”
Waters, 34, an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science since 2008, focuses his research on computing security, finding new methods to secure stored data by encryption using an entirely different vision for encryption he calls Functional Encryption. Instead of encrypting to individual users, users can embed how they want to share data in the encryption process.
“I am very grateful to be given this award,” Waters said. “Traveling to the White House was a unique and special experience.”
The awards, established by President Bill Clinton in 1996, 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.