September 27, 2011

Two UW scientists honored by President Obama

News and Information

Two UW faculty members were announced by President Obama as recipients of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers. This is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government for science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their research careers.

Ben Kerr, assistant professor of biology

Ben Kerr, assistant professor of biology

Ben Kerr, assistant professor of biology, was recognized for his research and educational activities studying the way that hosts of infectious diseases moves around, and how this movement affects the evolution of pathogens that cause disease. He uses mathematical models, computer simulations and microbial experiments to address how social network structure affects evolution within host-pathogen communities.

The educational component of Kerrs research involves the design of learning modules that illustrate biological evolution in real time; it also includes a multi-quarter course where students design, troubleshoot, execute, analyze and present their own evolution experiments with microbes.

Kerr emphasizes the inclusion of women and underrepresented groups in primary research roles, with participants from high school to postdoctoral students.

Dr. Kristina Utzschneider, assistant professor of medicine

Dr. Kristina Utzschneider, assistant professor of medicine

Dr. Kristina Utzschneider, assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology and Nutrition, is part of a group of scientists at the UW and the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System who study why people get type 2 diabetes and other diseases related to obesity.

She is particularly interested in why and how people develop insulin resistance – the inability of fat, liver and muscle cells to respond properly to insulin. She is currently investigating how insulin resistance develops in people who have fatty liver disease not caused by drinking too much alcohol — fat accumulation in the liver can result in scarring and inflammation, which heightens the risk of diabetes.

A total of 94 researchers received this years awards. They were nominated by 16 federal departments and agencies who judged them to show the greatest promise for assuring Americas preeminence in science and engineering, according to the White House. They were selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology, as well as their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education or community outreach.