Two Argonne physicists win Presidential Early Career Awards

By Jared SagoffJuly 23, 2012

ARGONNE, Ill. -- Two scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory have received the 2011 Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the nation’s highest honor for researchers in the beginning stages of their independent research careers.

Argonne low-energy physicist Peter Mueller and particle physicist Mayly Sanchez were selected by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for their contributions to meeting America’s scientific and technological missions and the country’s economic, energy, health and security needs.

“Discoveries in science and technology not only strengthen our economy, they inspire us as a people,” President Obama said.  “The impressive accomplishments of today’s awardees so early in their careers promise even greater advances in the years ahead.”

Mueller achieved recognition for his work in study of the nuclear structure of light isotopes – especially helium-6 and helium-8.

“I feel very honored to have been selected for this award,” Mueller added. “Exotic light nuclei represent part of the forefront of modern physics, and they display properties that allow us to look into some of the most fundamental behavior of matter in the universe,” he said.

Sanchez, an assistant professor at Iowa State University who holds a joint appointment at Argonne, studies the behavior of neutrinos – electrically neutral subatomic particles that are created by a variety of nuclear reactions, including radioactive decay.

“I’m grateful for this award,” Sanchez said. “I feel it is recognition of some of the sacrifices that we as scientists make. We do it, of course, because we love what we do -- but the fact that it is recognized at this level tells us that society thinks it is important.”

The PECASE award will enable Sanchez to devote her time to planning for the installation of the next generation of detectors at the Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment, which extends underground for nearly 500 miles between Fermilab in Batavia, Ill. and the Homestake Mine in South Dakota.

Sanchez was also recognized for her efforts to motivate young women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Mueller, Sanchez and the other PECASE winners will receive their awards at a ceremony at the White House later this year.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.