white house

President Donald Trump announced the recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers — with four out of the eight Florida recipients being UF faculty members.

The UF faculty members who received the prestigious award are:

  • David Clark, a research associate professor in the Department of Aging and Geriatric Research
  • Domenic Forte, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Aysegul Gunduz, an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering
  • Maitane Olabarrieta, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Coastal Engineering.

In total, the White House news release listed over 300 award recipients by state, research institution and nominating federal agency.

According to the press release, the award is “the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government to outstanding scientists and engineers who are beginning their independent research careers and who show exceptional promise for leadership in science and technology.”

A day after the list was released on July 2, David Clark heard the news and wasted no time in contacting his family to share.

Clark said the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs nominated him for his work on mobility function in people with neurological impairments, such as the elderly and stroke or spinal injury patients. His research also focuses on the effect of the aging process on the nervous system.

“It is definitely validation that the work that we’re doing in my lab is viewed as being important and that we’re on the right track and looking at topics that are of high relevance,” Clark said.

Nine participating agencies nominate researchers who have worked with them. According to the National Science Foundation, one of the participating agencies, each recipient receives a citation, a plaque and funding from the nominating agency for up to five years to advance their research.

The Department of Veterans Affairs awarded Clark a grant worth $125,000 over five years. The grant will go toward the expenses of running his research program including lab equipment and supporting students, Clark said.

“I don’t do any of this alone,” he said. “I certainly need a lot of help from other people to contribute to the research.”

Domenic Forte, nominated by the Department of Defense for his work on counterfeit electronics detection and avoidance, received a grant for $1 million spread across five years.

Forte plans to use the money to explore new areas including human biometric presentation attacks and countermeasures, PUF (hardware biometric) signatures for printed circuit boards and methods to speed up anomaly detection of electronic signatures.

Forte said the award is not just a grant but a recognition for life, highlighting a person’s hard work and dedication to his or her research.

“It’s something that will always be on my resume, and it’s something that makes me stand out,” Forte said. “It’s something that I’ll [always] be very proud of.”