Campus News Science & Technology

Lemons receives Presidential Early Career Award

Paula Lemons: “I appreciate my students who have inspired my research and its applications to the science classroom.” (Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

It’s the highest U.S. honor for up and coming scientists and engineers

University of Georgia associate professor Paula Lemons is among the 2019 recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, or PECASE, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on scientists and engineers in the early stages of their research careers and who show exceptional promise for leadership in science and technology.

Established in 1996, the PECASE acknowledges the contributions scientists and engineers have made to the advancement of science, technology, education and mathematics (STEM) education and to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education and community outreach. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy coordinates the PECASE with participating departments and agencies.

Lemons is an associate professor in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences department of biochemistry and molecular biology.

“I am very grateful to receive the PECASE award. First and foremost, I thank God and my family for their inspiration and support throughout my career. Also, I am thankful to my UGA colleagues and administrators who have been a continuous source of support during my time at UGA, Lemons said. “I also appreciate my UGA students who have inspired my research and its applications to the science classroom.”

Photo of Paula Lemons teaching.

Associate professor Paula Lemons talks with students as she teaches her introductory biochemistry class in a SCALE-UP classroom inside the Science Learning Center. (Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

“This accolade reflects a reputation that has been a number of years in the making,” said Christopher West, professor and head of the department of biochemistry and molecular biology. “From the time that she arrived at UGA a decade ago, Dr. Lemons has carried out research with her team to better understand how undergraduate students learn and to explore best practices for implementing the findings from both her program and others in the field.

“Students who enroll in her introductory classes and faculty who have the opportunity to practice her ideas have appreciated the significance of her insights,” West said.

Lemons serves as director of the SEER (Scientists Engaged in Educational Research) Center and principal investigator of the National Science Foundation-sponsored DeLTA (Department and Leadership Teams for Action) project.

“My own background coming from a non-scientist family and a small liberal arts college with limited research opportunities meant I did not bring the same experiences and scientific savvy that I saw in others around me,” Lemons said. “Every semester thousands of students enter our STEM classrooms, laboratories and programs excited about the promise of STEM, yet full of doubts about their ability to succeed. The work of the NSF in the Directorate of Education and Human Resources is largely about pinpointing the basic conditions necessary to maximize student learning and to do so in a way that works for each student who signs up. I hope my award will be an opportunity for UGA to continue rallying around the call to transform science and engineering education into a phenomenon that positively impacts all students.”