Heather Knutson, Austin Minnich, and Thomas Vidick, along with JPL's Laurie Barge, John Reager, and Jonathan Sauder, have been named recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.
The award, announced on July 2, 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.
Knutson, Minnich, and Vidick were honored for their work in a range of fields:
- Knutson, professor of planetary science, focuses her research on the characteristics of extrasolar planetary atmospheres and searches for long-period companions in exoplanetary systems. She has recently received the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER)Award in 2016 and the Newton Lacy Pierce Prize in Astronomy from the American Astronomical Society in 2015 for her work in the characterization of exoplanet atmospheres. She holds a bachelor's degree from Johns Hopkins University, and a master's and a PhD from Harvard. She joined Caltech as an assistant professor in 2011 and became a full professor in 2017.
- Minnich, professor of mechanical engineering and applied physics, studies condensed matter physics, with a focus on transport phenomena and the simulation of quantum systems. His recent awards include the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award in 2015 and the junior prize from the International Photothermal and Photoacoustic Association in 2017. He holds a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley, and a master's and a PhD from MIT. He joined Caltech as an assistant professor in 2011 and became a full professor in 2017.
- Vidick, professor of computing and mathematical sciences, focuses on quantum computing and how to encrypt information using quantum systems to transmit data more securely than through classical systems. In 2016, he received a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation and a Young Investigator Award from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. In 2017, he was named an Azrieli Global Scholar by the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. He holds degrees in computer science including a bachelor's degree from École normale supérieure in Paris, a master's degree from the University of Paris, and a PhD from UC Berkeley. He joined Caltech as an assistant professor in 2014 and became a full professor in 2018.
At JPL Barge was recognized for innovative fuel-cell based research; Reager, for analysis of terrestrial global water cycles; and Jonathan Sauder, for demonstrating innovative technologies to enable a new class of space missions. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.