University of Delaware faculty member Daniel van der Weide--an Iowa native who once considered a farming career--will officially become one of the nation's most elite young researchers during a White House ceremony next week, federal officials announced Oct. 23.
Van der Weide, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, will be the first UD faculty member, and one of only 20 researchers nation-wide, to receive the prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from the National Science Foundation (NSF).
"Dan truly is one of the best of the best," said Stuart Cooper, dean of UD's College of Engineering. "Enrollment within our Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering has increased by 200 percent within the past year, while financial support for research within that unit has jumped by 200 percent. Much of that success can be attributed to stellar faculty members like Dan. He is an asset to the University and to the State of Delaware."
The highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding young scientists and engineers, the Presidential Early Career Award recognizes van der Weide's ongoing efforts to develop ultra-small instruments and techniques for polishing and characterizing the surfaces of semiconductor integrated circuits, or computer chips. To develop such "nanomachining" technologies and enhance research opportunities for undergraduate students, Van der Weide had previously received a CAREER award and $320,000 from the NSF.
On Nov. 3, the total amount of his NSF support will be increased to $500,000, to be awarded over a five-year period. The additional funds will support a virtual laboratory on the World Wide Web, where van der Weide is making his latest research results available to a broader audience. (Go to: http://www.eecis.udel.edu/~dan) The award also will make it possible for more undergraduate students to "get their hands dirty in the laboratory, publish scholarly articles and learn more effectively," added van der Weide was named Aug. 12 to direct a new $2.88 million Center for Nanomachined Surfaces at UD.
The Presidential Early Career Awards were established by President Bill Clinton in February 1996. "These gifted young professionals exemplify the best of our science and technology community and will help set the scientific pace for the United States and the world in the years ahead," the President said. "Their passion for discovery and their determination to explore new scientific frontiers will drive this nation forward and build a better America for the 21st century."
Ten government agencies have nominated a total of 60 young researchers to receive this year's awards. Only 20 researchers, including van der Weide, were selected by the NSF as worthy of the award.