Research scientist Jason Graetz '98 has received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers -- the highest honor given by the U.S. government to professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.
Graetz, who earned an A.B. in physics from Occidental College, is a materials scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. He is among 100 young researchers who received the award this year.
The Presidential Early Career Award, which includes an up to five-year research grant, will be presented at a White House ceremony this fall. Nine federal departments and agencies support the honorees, including the DOE, NASA, and the Environmental Protection Agency. The award is intended to support recipients' career development, foster innovation in science and technology, and highlight the importance of science and technology for the nation's future.
"These extraordinarily gifted young scientists and engineers represent the best in our country," President Barack Obama '83 said in a written statement. "With their talent, creativity, and dedication, I am confident that they will lead their fields in new breakthroughs and discoveries and help us to use science and technology to lift up our nation and our world."
Graetz was recognized for his innovative research in improving high-capacity hydrogen storage for automotive fuel-cell applications, as well as his mentoring of undergraduate and postgraduate students, organizing a symposium for the American Physical Society, and giving public lectures about his work.
"The storage of hydrogen is one of the more challenging technical barriers to the development of hydrogen-fueled vehicles," he said. "We are developing new solid-state hydrogen storage materials, and our focus is on aluminum hydride. It stores hydrogen in only 10 percent of the space required by conventional methods and releases hydrogen at less than 100 percent Celsius."
After graduating from Occidental, Graetz earned his master's and doctoral degrees in materials science from Caltech. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Caltech in 2003 and at Brookhaven from 2004 to 2006. The Presidential Early Career Award is not his first honor: he received the Ewald Wicke Award for his work in the physical chemistry of metal hydrides in 2006. He's also an expert in hydrogen storage for the International Energy Agency.
"It is very exciting and encouraging to have my work acknowledged in this way," Graetz said of his most recent honor. "I'm enthusiastic about the research opportunities ahead."