Campus News

Two researchers honored at White House ceremony

Two UGA scientists have been awarded the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on scientists and engineers beginning their careers.

Sonia Altizer, an associate professor in the Odum School of Ecology, and Chad Fertig, an assistant professor of physics in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, were among 68 researchers honored with the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers at a White House ceremony last month.

“Selection for the award is based on the combination of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and community service demonstrated through scientific leadership and community outreach,” according to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Altizer studies the ecological and genetic relationships between pathogens and their hosts. Her current research explores how long-distance migration in animals influences the spread and impact of infectious diseases, using monarch butterflies and a microscopic parasite as a model system. Altizer also uses large-scale databases to examine how mammalian ecology and behavior influence parasite infections and has conducted field studies to ask how seasonality and urbanization influence disease outbreaks in songbirds. Altizer has helped connect the public with scientific research through a recently developed citizen science project in which volunteers from across North America examine monarch butterfly-parasite interactions. Altizer was nominated by the National Science Foundation, which has awarded her a $679,000, five-year grant through its Faculty Early Career Development Program.

Fertig uses extremely low-temperatures gases known as Bose-Einstein condensates to explore magnetism on the atomic level. The insights, tools and techniques gained from his research can lead to the development of remarkably precise navigational instruments that measure the strength and direction of magnetic fields, inertial sensors that can track location based on factors such as orientation and velocity, and ultra-fast quantum computers.

Fertig, who was nominated by the Department of Defense, also was recognized for his role in creating links between university faculty and high school educators to promote careers in science and technology among youth.