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Sandia LabNews

Sandians honored by President Obama for early career accomplishments

Stan Atcitty
Stan Atcitty – "It’s an exhilarating feeling for me to be a member of the Navajo tribe and to be a contributor to the world’s scientific community. I am so grateful to be recognized for developing technologies that have the potential to improve the quality of life around the world. The opportunity Sandia provides to work in world-class facilities, beside world-class colleagues, has created an outstanding environment for success and innovation. I’m also grateful for the support from Dr. Imre Gyuk and the DOE Energy Storage Program. These are the things — along with the unwavering support from my family — that have defined my career. I really enjoy working with students, especially American Indian students. Watching them grow and find success, especially in math and science, is near and dear to my heart. If this PECASE award inspires them to reach a little higher, stretch a little farther, then I will consider it a true high point of my career."

Sandia researchers Stan Atcitty (6121) and Dan Sinars (1648) have been named by President Barack Obama as recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). This is the highest honor bestowed by the US government on outstanding scientists and engineers who are early in their independent research careers.

Stan and Dan are among 96 researchers – including 13 from DOE laboratories – from 11 federal agencies named PECASE recipients this year. A variety of DOE’s program offices are funding the work by the department’s recipients.

In making this year’s announcement, President Obama said, “Discoveries in science and technology not only strengthen our economy, they inspire us as a people. The impressive accomplishments of today’s awardees so early in their careers promise even greater advances in the years ahead.”

Energy Secretary Steven Chu offered his congratulations to DOE’s recipients, encouraging them “to continue on their paths to becoming the next generation of innovators, who will help America stay competitive in a rapidly advancing world. Their cutting-edge research is helping to meet our energy challenges, strengthen our national security, and enhance our economic competitiveness.”

In addition to a citation and a plaque, each PECASE winner is continuing to receive department funding for up to five years to advance his or her research.

Stan was nominated for the PECASE award by DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability “for advances in power electronics for the electric grid, including the development of a high-temperature silicon carbide power module and an ultra-high-voltage silicon carbide thyristor, for research on grid integration of energy storage, and for mentorship in the Native American community.”

Stan’s work on the high-temperature silicon carbide power module and on the high-voltage silicon carbide thyristor were honored with prestigious R&D 100 awards in 2009 and 2011 respectively. The semiconductor device allows next-generation “smart grid” power electronics system to be built up to 10 times smaller and lighter than current silicon-based technologies.

Dan was nominated by DOE’s Office of Science “for developing innovative techniques to study the properties of instabilities in magnetized-high-energy-density plasma, enabling quantifiable comparison between experiment and simulation needed for validating cutting-edge radiation-hydrodynamics codes, and for demonstrating substantial leadership qualities in high-energy-density-laboratory-plasma physics.”

In 2011, Dan was awarded a DOE Office of Science Early Career Research Program award of $2.5 million over a five-year period for measuring fundamental instabilities in magnetically driven Z-pinch explosions.

Dan’s team was the first to capture, in a series of 3-D images separated by nanoseconds, the undesirable but apparently unavoidable appearance of a damaging instability (called Magneto-Rayleigh-Taylor, or MRT) in Z-pinch magnetic fields otherwise known to create conditions that fuse atoms for possible electrical energy generation.

Sandia President and Labs Director Paul Hommert said, “I congratulate Stan Atcitty and Dan Sinars for this prestigious award. I’m sure everyone at Sandia shares my pride in their accomplishments. Those of us at Sandia who have watched their careers develop over the past few years are hardly surprised by this high-level recognition from President Obama, but we are very gratified. Their recognition, along with that of colleagues from throughout the DOE enterprise, is testimony to the quality of research in DOE’s national laboratories.”

The PECASE awards were established in 1996, and are administered by 11 federal agencies. Besides DOE’s Office of Science and NNSA, the other nominating agencies are the National Science Foundation, NASA, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Defense, Department of Agriculture, Department of Education, Department of Commerce, and the Smithsonian Institution.

The awards will be presented at a White House ceremony on July 31.