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Two Receive Presidential Early Career Awards

July 9, 2009
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Two Northwestern University faculty members have been awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE).

They are Steven D. Jacobsen, assistant professor of Earth and planetary sciences in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, and Melina Kibbe, M.D., associate professor of surgery at the Feinberg School of Medicine, vascular surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and co-chief of the vascular surgery service and director of the Vascular Laboratory at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center.

The award, established in 1996, is the highest honor given by the U.S. government to outstanding scientists and engineers who are in the early stages of their independent research careers. Awardees are selected on the basis of two criteria: Pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and a commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education or community outreach.

Jacobsen and Kibbe will be invited to the White House to meet President Obama and receive the PECASE award this fall.

Nine federal departments and agencies join together annually to nominate young scientists and engineers whose work is of greatest benefit to the nominating agency’s mission. Jacobsen was nominated by the National Science Foundation (NSF) for his 2008 Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award, which includes research support for five years. Kibbe, who was nominated for the award by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), will receive funding from the department for five years as part of this award.

Jacobsen is being recognized for his innovative research on the critical role of water on the physical properties of the Earth’s deep interior and for prioritizing science education at all levels, especially through efforts to increase minority student representation in advanced science and mathematics courses in Evanston public schools.

An experimental scientist, Jacobsen conducts high-pressure laboratory experiments on Earth and planetary materials at both Northwestern and the Advanced Photon Source of Argonne National Laboratory. His research in Earth and materials science include global geophysics and geochemistry, high-pressure physics and chemistry, and properties of superhard materials targeted for future societal applications. Jacobsen’s CAREER research suggests that a layer deep in the Earth, 250 to 400 miles below the surface, might contain the majority of the planet’s water and that the layer acts, over geologic timescales, to balance the amount of liquid water on the Earth’s surface.

Jacobsen, who joined Northwestern in 2006, was named 2008 Distinguished Lecturer of the Mineralogical Society of America and in 2009 received a five-year Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. He has authored or co-authored more than 50 peer-reviewed research articles in the areas of mineralogy, geology, geophysics and physics, and co-edited a book, entitled “Earth’s Deep Water Cycle.”

At Northwestern, Jacobsen is a Faculty Fellow of the Public Affairs Residential College (PARC) and is active in Project EXCITE at the Center for Talent Development, a science and math enrichment program for academically talented K-8 minority students in Evanston/Skokie School District 65.

Kibbe, a member of the Institute for BioNanotechnology in Medicine at the Robert H. Lurie Medical Research Center, is being recognized for her innovative research in the field of nitric oxide vascular biology and the development of novel translational therapies for patients with vascular disease.

Her research explores how to extend the effectiveness of vascular procedures such as balloon angioplasty and stenting, bypass grafting and other vascular interventions with limited durability. Her research focus is to further the understanding of nitric oxide vascular biology in order to develop nitric oxide-based therapies to improve patient care.

Kibbe, who joined Northwestern University in 2003, has received grant funding for her research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the American Heart Association, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the State of Illinois, the American Vascular Association and other private foundations and societies.

In addition, her team was selected by NUCATS at the Feinberg School as one of four winners of the first Drew Senyei, M.D., Translational Research Awards. Kibbe has authored more than 65 peer-reviewed research articles and has served on study sections for the National Institutes of Health and the VA. She is an associate editor of the Journal of Surgical Research and is active in many societies, including the Association for Academic Surgery.
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