A researcher from the Army's corporate research laboratory has received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.
The award, known as the PECASE, is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government to outstanding scientists and engineers who are beginning independent research careers showing exceptional promise for leadership in science and technology.
Dr. Nathan Lazarus, an electronics engineer with the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command's Army Research Laboratory, does research in stretchable power electronics.
"Winning the PECASE is a great honor for me, and I'm still a little bit in shock," Lazarus said. "While I've always felt that my work on stretchable electronics is exciting, I'm very pleased that the importance has now been recognized at the highest level."
The award is open to researchers outside of government circles, and therefore familiar to professors and other academics.
"I think this will be particularly valuable for me in my interactions with academic collaborators who aren't always very familiar with the good research that we do at places like ARL," he said. "While I'm very proud of what I've achieved, I also realize that my results would not have been possible without help from my colleagues and students, and wish that they could have received the award with me."
Lazarus's research in liquid metals and stretchable magnetic materials and inductors has provided an important foundation for improving the capabilities of the Soldier, from the biomonitors of today to the skin- or clothing-borne computers and radios of the future.
He has achieved a series of important firsts through his research including the first stretchable magnetic core inductor, the first multi-layer liquid metal inductor and the first demonstration of a fully stretchable fluidic wireless power system.
Lazarus's research addresses two crucial Army warfighter challenges, improving Soldier performance and enhancing training by limiting injury.
As a respected expert in microfabrication and stretchable electronics, Lazarus has served on multiple National Science Foundation review panels, has been invited to contribute on future directions in reconfigurable electronics by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and has reviewed for numerous journals.
In addition, Lazarus has taught a graduate course at George Washington University, advised and mentored students and young researchers, and frequently volunteers with a wide variety of local school competitions and science fairs.
The PECASE and similar awards are important for not only the recipients, but for the science, technology, engineering and mathematics community as a whole, Lazarus said.
"Research is always about trying to drive science and technology forward, pushing the boundaries of knowledge," Lazarus said. "Awards like the PECASE can be a critical motivator and help push young researchers like myself to attempt to do great things at the edge of our capabilities."
The PECASE provides validation that the work done by Army researchers matters to an organization like the U.S. government, he said.
"It is also far from uncommon for a researcher to experience some degree of self-doubt, a feeling that our research doesn't reach far beyond a tiny community of fellow researchers," Lazarus said. "Most importantly, I believe in pushing more of our children and young people into STEM fields, and seeing scientists and engineers recognized is very important for outreach efforts in our country."
Established in 1996, the PECASE acknowledges the contributions scientists and engineers have made to the advancement of STEM education, and to community service as demonstrated by scientific leadership, public education and community outreach.
The awards are conferred annually at the White House following recommendations from participating departments and agencies. This year's recipients will be honored at a July 25 ceremony in Washington, D.C.