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The University of Alabama

Obama Honors Outstanding Young Scientists, including UA Researcher

Dr. Samantha Hansen

Dr. Samantha Hansen

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — President Barack Obama named a University of Alabama geologist among the 102 researchers receiving the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.

The winners, including Dr. Samantha Hansen, a UA assistant professor of geological sciences, will receive their awards at a Washington, D.C.-ceremony in coming weeks.

“The impressive achievements of these early-stage scientists and engineers are promising indicators of even greater successes ahead,” President Obama said in a recent announcement from the White House Press Office. “We are grateful for their commitment to generating the scientific and technical advancements that will ensure America’s global leadership for many years to come.”

Hansen is using energy signals from earthquakes occurring worldwide to image the Transantarctic Mountains in attempts to better understand how the mountain range formed some 55 million years ago across Antarctica. Much of the mountain range is covered in deep layers of snow and ice.

Last month, Hansen and two UA graduate students returned from a six-week stay in Antarctica where they retrieved data from 15 seismic stations she and research colleagues installed along portions of the mountain range in late 2012. It was Hansen’s fourth trip to Antarctica. This aspect of her research is funded through a five-year $715,000 CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation.

The Presidential Early Career Awards embody the high priority the Obama Administration places on producing outstanding scientists and engineers to advance the nation’s goals, tackle grand challenges, and contribute to the American economy, according to the announcement.

The recipients are employed or funded by the following departments and agencies: Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of the Interior, Department of Veterans Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Science Foundation, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Intelligence Community, which join together annually to nominate the most meritorious scientists and engineers whose early accomplishments show the greatest promise for assuring America’s preeminence in science and engineering and contributing to the awarding agencies’ missions.

The awards, established by President William “Bill” Clinton in 1996, are coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President. Awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach.

Hansen, a researcher in UA’s College of Arts and Sciences, earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where she triple majored in engineering, geophysics and geology as an undergraduate, and her doctorate from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She completed her post-doctoral work at Penn State before joining UA in 2010.

UA’s department of geological sciences is part of the College of Arts and Sciences, the University’s largest division and the largest liberal arts college in the state. Students from the College have won numerous national awards including Rhodes Scholarships, Goldwater Scholarships and memberships on the USA Today Academic All American Team.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.