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Five RGPO Grantees Earn 2019 Presidential Early Career Awards

RGPO grantee Aaron Parsons says funding “was undoubtedly a contributing factor in my nomination for the PECASE award.”

Five UC faculty who have received funding from the Research Grants Program Office (RGPO) were among the 2019 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) recipients. Announced by the White House on July 2, 2019, PECASE awards are the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government to outstanding scientists and engineers who are beginning their independent research careers and who show exceptional promise for leadership in science and technology.

The five honorees are among 315 researchers chosen from across the U.S., and join over two dozen other PECASE recipients with UC affiliations. The awardees represent a variety of scientific disciplines, reflecting the diversity of research supported by RGPO.

Adriana Galvan, a professor of psychology at UCLA, studies adolescent brain development and uses her findings to inform policy on juvenile justice and related issues. Galvan was awarded funding by the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program for two projects studying the neurobiology of cigarette craving and the long-term effects of nicotine on adolescent brains.

Thomas Maimone is an associate professor of chemistry at UC Berkeley who is interested in innovative solutions to the total synthesis of complex, biologically active natural products with relevance to issues of human health. Maimone received a 2014 Cancer Research Coordinating Committee grant to synthesize new molecules for studying molecular pathways that lead to tumor growth.

James Olzmann is an associate professor of nutritional sciences and toxicology at UC Berkeley. He studies how the body’s cells make storage organs, in particular the storage droplets for fat molecules called lipids. He has received a 2020 Cancer Research Coordinating Committee grant to deploy a whole genome screen to identify new opportunities for therapies in chemotherapy-resistant cancers.

Wenjun Zhang is an associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at UC Berkeley, and faculty scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Zhang received a 2013 Cancer Research Coordinating Committee grant to develop a method using bacteria to biosynthesize new molecules that may have anticancer properties.

Aaron Parsons, an associate professor of astronomy at UC Berkeley, is a radio astronomer who served as a collaborator on a 2015 Multicampus Research Programs and Initiatives grant that brought theorists and experimentalists together to develop initiatives for exploring and understanding the early universe. He now leads an international collaboration to continue this research, and says that the multicampus RGPO grant “was undoubtedly a contributing factor in my nomination for the PECASE award.”


Learn more about the 2019 PECASE awards:

Berkeley PECASE awardees