Obama Picks Two UK Professors for Awards

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President Obama presented the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers to two University of Kentucky professors last August: Bruce Hinds, an associate professor of chemical and materials engineering, and David McNear Jr., an assistant professor of plant and soil sciences.

Hinds and McNear were two of 100 researchers nationwide to receive the award, the highest honor bestowed by the federal government on young professionals in the early stages of their research careers. Hinds and McNear received their awards at a ceremony in the historic east wing of the White House last fall. “Obama came in to raucous applause,” says Hinds. “It was exciting to see him close up—he conveyed a strong presence and enthusiasm. He spoke to us as a group for a few minutes about how important science and engineering are for our country’s future.”

Hinds, who is also UK’s William Bryan Professor in Chemical and Materials Engineering, conducts research on nanoscale device fabrication. Science and Nature magazines have featured his discovery of a method to make carbon nanotube membranes that permit fluids to flow through at a rate 10,000 times faster than normal materials. This system is being used to pump drugs, using very small voltages, in a programmable skin patch device to treat drug addiction.

McNear is focusing on tall fescue, a popular forage grass, and its symbiotic friend, an endophyte fungus that lives inside the plant. He is studying the effects of the fungus on the chemistry of compounds released into the rhizosphere (the root-soil interface), and how these compounds interact with soil and microbes to influence carbon and nitrogen cycling in fields throughout the Southeast.

“I am thrilled for Bruce Hinds and Dave McNear, but not the least bit surprised,” says UK President Lee T. Todd, Jr. “Both of these professors have been conducting leading-edge research from the moment they arrived on campus, and this award validates the fact that their work ranks among the best in the nation and the world."

Bruce Hinds

Bruce Hinds

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David McNear

David McNear

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