Physics prof honored at White House as rising science star

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Exactly a month before President Barack Obama raised his right hand and shipped his boxes to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Assistant Professor of Physics Anastasia Volovich got a close look at Obama’s new home.

Volovich was honored at a White House ceremony last month along with the other winners of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers.

Volovich works in theoretical physics, string theory and related areas in particle physics and general relativity. She said she uses insights from string theory – which looks to provide a unified explanation of all the physical laws in the universe – to better understand various problems in theoretical particle physics.

“I felt very honored to win and very excited to go to the White House,” Volovich said.

Volovich said she is now developing mathematical tools that will help scientists interpret data from the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest particle accelerator that was activated last year.

“Her standing in the field and her promise for the future really stands out,” said Professor of Physics and Department Chair Chung-I Tan.

The PECASE, awarded to Volovich by the National Science Foundation, acknowledges scientists and engineers who demonstrate exceptional promise at the beginning of their professional careers.

The NSF nominated Volovich and 19 other scientists for the honor. In total, government agencies gave awards to 67 researchers.

“We take great pride in the PECASE winners,” NSF Deputy Director Kathie Olsen said in a statement. “It is important to support the transformational research of these beginning scientists and to foster their work in educational outreach and mentoring.”

In winning the award, Volovich continues a string of success enjoyed by young Brown researchers at the White House. In 2007, Assistant Professor of Computer Science Chad Jenkins and Associate Professor of Engineering Pradeep Guduru were honored in Washington for winning PECASE awards.