Former Livermore researcher earns Presidential Early Career Award

June 10, 2005

Former Livermore researcher earns Presidential Early Career Award

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Wei Cai, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford University, is being honored today with a 2004 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) for work he did while serving as an Ernest O. Lawrence Fellow at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).

The award, given annually to scientists and engineers who have advanced the fields of science and technology early in their careers, will be presented by Presidential Science Adviser John Marburger in a White House ceremony this afternoon. A separate award ceremony is being held at the U.S. Department of Energy for DOE’s nine Early Career Scientist and Engineer Award recipients.

Cai was nominated for the award by the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Office of Defense Programs in recognition of his role in developing LLNL’s Parallel Dislocation Simulator (ParaDiS), a supercomputer model that simulates the dynamics of crystals as they deform. LLNL Director Michael Anastasio said Cai’s computational theory of dislocation dynamics “after many years has been able to unify dislocation physics and crystal plasticity in a new computational discipline.”

A native of China, Cai received a bachelor’s degree in optoelectronic engineering from the Huazhong University of Science and Technology in 1995 and his Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from MIT in 2001. He was a Lawrence Fellow at LLNL from 2001 to 2004 and continues to collaborate with the Laboratory on materials research using ParaDiS.

Along with his work on dislocation dynamics, Cai also won recognition for “developing ways to deal with challenging multiscale problems, especially those with widely disparate time scales, and for the development of innovative tools to aid in teaching beginning students about atomistic simulations,” according to the DOE awards brochure.

“His research, using massively parallel computing facilities at Livermore, has led to improved understanding of the fundamental mechanisms of resistance of metals to plastic deformation under normal and extreme conditions that are important to National Nuclear Security Administration mission needs.”

The PECASE program recognizes outstanding scientists and engineers who show exceptional potential for leadership at the frontiers of knowledge. The presidential award is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on scientists and engineers beginning their independent careers.

“I could not be more pleased that Wei has been honored for the great work he did while at Livermore,” Anastasio said. “His innovations made it possible for a broad range of scientific and technical problems of great importance to LLNL and NNSA/DP to be addressed.”

“The Department of Energy is proud that these researchers are making important contributions, in a wide range of fields, to innovation and technology for energy, economic and national security,” Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman said.  “If the outstanding efforts of these scientists and engineers are any indication of the future, I have no doubt they will ensure America’s scientific leadership far into the next century.”

Cai is one of 58 recipients of the 2004 presidential awards, which were established in 1996. Each year eight federal departments and agencies nominate scientists and engineers at the start of their careers whose work shows the greatest promise to benefit the nominating agency’s mission. Participating agencies award these beginning scientists and engineers up to five years of funding to further their research in support of critical government missions.

A second former LLNL Lawrence Fellow, physicist Joel Ullom, received a 2004 PECASE award for his work at the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Boulder, Colo., laboratories. Ullom, a Lawrence Fellow from 1999 to 2002, was honored for "new insights into quasiparticle dynamics in superconductors and the physics governing noise in superconducting phase transitions, and for his development of improved superconducting sensors and the first practical quantum solid-state refrigerator."

The awards foster innovative and far-reaching developments in science and technology, increase awareness of careers in science and engineering, give recognition to the scientific missions of participating agencies, enhance connections between fundamental research and national goals, and highlight the importance of science and technology for the nation’s future.

Founded in 1952, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has a mission to ensure national security and apply science and technology to the important issues of our time. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.