UMass Amherst Polymer Scientist and Kinesiology Alumna Receive Prestigious Presidential Early Career Awards

AMHERST, Mass. – President Barack Obama has named University of Massachusetts Amherst polymer scientist Alejandro L. Briseño to receive the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the federal government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. 
Briseño was cited for “outstanding research accomplishments in areas of organic semiconductor nanoelectronics and molecular crystals and breakthroughs in the fundamental understanding of organic interfacial crystallization.”
Joining Briseño among the 96 science and engineering professionals to receive the PECASE was Maria Urso of the U.S. Army Research Institute for Environmental Medicine (USARIEM), who earned her Ph.D. in kinesiology at UMass Amherst in 2006.
Briseño is an assistant professor of polymer science and engineering, having joined the UMass Amherst faculty in 2009. He earned an undergraduate degree at California State Los Angeles, before earning a master’s degree in chemistry at UCLA in 2006 and a Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Washington in 2008. He did postdoctoral work in chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley before joining the UMass Amherst polymer science faculty.
“The scientific accomplishments in my group would have not been possible without the hard work and dedication of my students and postdocs, and the support of my colleagues at UMass Amherst,” said Briseño, who also credited Paul Armistead of the Office of Naval Research “for supporting my research to push the fundamental limits of organic and polymer electronics.”
“This is a remarkable academic research institute and I am absolutely humbled to be able to represent polymer science and engineering at UMass Amherst in this award. I hope my receiving this accolade can inspire other young scientists and engineers to continue pursuing their scientific ideas, just as it inspired me,” he said.
President Obama said the awards recognize outstanding scientists and engineers who advance the nation’s goals, tackle grand challenges and contribute to the American economy.
“Discoveries in science and technology not only strengthen our economy, they inspire us as a people,” Obama said. “The impressive accomplishments of today’s awardees so early in their careers promise even greater advances in the years ahead.”
The awards, established by President Clinton in 1996, are coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President. Awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education or community outreach.
Briseño’s award focuses on his work developing “organic and polymer single- crystalline semiconductors” with practical applications in boosting the performance of devices ranging from solar cells to plastic circuits – research that is especially interesting to the U.S. Department of Defense as well as creating new opportunities for commercial development.
Urso, whose award was also put forth by the Defense Department, conducts research in skeletal muscle cell signaling physiology. Her focus is on “the discovery and evaluation of novel therapeutics in mitigating skeletal muscle injury in response-damaging exercise, ischemia reperfusion (use of tourniquets and surgical procedures) and blunt-force trauma and blast injury.” After earning her doctorate in kinesiology at UMass Amherst, Urso served four years in the Army as a captain at USARIEM and has stayed on as a civilian since 2010.