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Three UCLA engineering professors to be awarded highest honors for research

Three UCLA professors will visit the White House this spring to receive one of the highest honors awarded to young researchers. (Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science)

By Shweta Chawla

Feb. 22, 2016 12:26 a.m.

Three UCLA professors will visit the White House this spring to receive one of the highest honors awarded to young researchers.

The Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers recognizes influential work in fields such as agricultural innovation, environmental protection and national defense. It is funded by corresponding government-led departments, according to a White House statement.

Each federal department that funds the award honors specific scientists, who then receive citations, plaques and funding for their research over the next five years.

Eleven UCLA faculty members have been honored with the award since its inception in 1996, during Bill Clinton’s presidency.

The Department of Defense honored Dino Di Carlo, an engineering professor, for applying inertial microfluidics to rare cell detection, using the natural fluid flow characteristics of small particles to separate and identify them.

Di Carlo also studies how malignant cancer cells spread. His laboratory produces 3-D microparticles and is researching how to measure rare cell concentrations in blood.

The Department of Energy honored Jonathan Hopkins, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering department, for identifying flexible elements in materials. His laboratory applies its findings to practical issues and integrates new and more extensive versions of the elements in different materials.

Hopkins also directs the Flexible Research Group and participates in summer outreach programs for undergraduate students.

The National Science Foundation honored Benjamin Williams, associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering, for his work with semiconductor lasers in the terahertz frequency range.

His research concluded that artificial molecules create radiation in the narrow terahertz range. Its properties can then be applied to biological mechanisms, drug detection and medical imaging.

The breadth and originality of research being pursued by professors Di Carlo, Hopkins and Williams points to the (engineering school’s) ability to address problems of societal importance,” said the dean of the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, Jayathi Y. Murthy.

Compiled by Shweta Chawla, Bruin contributor.

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