News

Professors recieve awards from President

On September 9, two Carnegie Mellon associate professors were awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Science and Engineering (PECASE) by President Bush. Yoky Matsuoka, head of the Neurobotics Institute, and Jennifer Lerner, who directs the Emotional and Decision Laboratory, were nominated for the award by the National Science Foundation.

The National Science Foundation?s website describes the PECASE program as ?the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government on scientists and engineers beginning their independent careers.? The award, initiated in 1996 by President Clinton, was granted to twenty scientists nationwide this year; Carnegie Mellon was represented by two of those recipients. The only other universities to receive multiple awards were Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley.

Yoky Matsuoka?s work with the Neurobotics Institute is concerned with ?building a robot-human closed loop system to alter the neural control of movement as a way to rehabilitate, assist, and enhance human motor control and learning capabilities....[The lab?s] primary target population is individuals with strokes, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, and other injuries that inhibit daily activities.?

Matsuoka attended the University of California, Berkeley, where she received her bachelor?s degree in electrical engineering and computer science. She received her masters degree and he r doctorate in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In a news release titled ?Carnegie Mellon Gives McCandless Professorships To Up-and-Coming Researchers,? former Robotics Institute director Chuck Thorpe described Matsuoka as ?a brilliant researcher, a pied piper when it comes to advising, and someone who deeply cares about the people whom her research helps.?

Jennifer Lerner, the award?s other recipient, received her Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of Michigan Honors College and her doctorate in psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. The National Institutes of Health awarded her a postdoctoral fellowship at UCLA, focusing on the biological bases of emotional well-being. Lerner?s research interests include ?study[ing] the influence of emotional and social/structural factors on judgment and choice,? as well as ?examining how different kinds of accountability relationships shape judgment accuracy.?

According to Lerner, her initial disbelief upon learning that she was being considered for the award in March turned to delight when she learned that she had received the award. Indeed, she expressed her excitement with the prospect that the award could ?attract more students and colleagues into the study of decision science, which is an increasingly recognized gem here at Carnegie Mellon.? Lerner hopes that her research ?will translate from basic science into applied science in the fields of public policy, economic choices, and risk perceptions.?
Although the award is by no means exclusive to women, this year the majority of its recipients were women. Lerner advises all women interested in the sciences and engineering fields to ?know your priorities, as you will be forced to make trade-offs every day. Especially if you want to have children, managing a scientific career at a top university can become quite complex. I manage by taking it one day at a time, by having one senior woman I can consult at the university about work/family issues ? there are no senior women in my department ? and by putting my own mental and physical health above all work demands.?

Although the two women are no longer eligible to receive another Presidential Early Career Award, Matsuoka and Lerner will undoubtedly continue to revolutionize their fields. As Lerner said, ?This is a marathon rather than a sprint.?