Engineering News

Liu and Wertheim Honored with Presidential Early Career Awards

PECASE is the highest honor bestowed by the US government on young science and engineering professionals

Han Liu and Jason Wertheim, both with appointments at Northwestern Engineering, have been awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) along with three other University professors. President Donald J. Trump announced the recipients of the prestigious honor last week.

Established in 1996, the PECASE honors the contributions of scientists and engineers in the advancement of science, technology, education, and mathematics (STEM) through scientific education, community outreach, and public education. It is the highest honor bestowed by the US government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. The White House, following recommendations from participating federal agencies, confers the awards. 

Chemist Danna Freedman, economist Mar Reguant, and neuroscientist Joel Voss also received the PECASE. This year’s recipients will be honored at a July 25 ceremony in Washington, DC.

Han LiuLiu, associate professor of computer science at the McCormick School of Engineering, was nominated by the National Science Foundation, and was honored for his work in artificial intelligence and data science.

Lying at the intersection of modern artificial intelligence and computer systems, Liu’s research deploys statistical machine learning methods on edges and clouds to achieve analytical advantages. His primary research uses computation and data as a lens to explore machine intelligence. He works toward this goal by using the point of view provided by the twin windows of statistical machine learning and computer systems. Statistical machine learning provides a unified framework which combines uncertainty and logical structure to model complex, real-world phenomena, while computer systems implement the learning algorithms with the highest performance guarantees.

Jason WertheimWertheim, vice chair of research and associate professor of surgery at the Feinberg School of Medicine and associate professor of biomedical engineering at McCormick, was nominated by the Department of Veteran Affairs. He received the PECASE for innovative and applied research investigating how injured tissues and organs heal, regenerate, and repair in order to develop new tissues as future treatments for chronic organ failure.

A clinical transplant surgeon and biomedical engineer, Wertheim focuses on discovering new methods to bioengineer liver and kidney tissue in the laboratory as a cutting-edge solution to donor organ shortage. Wertheim’s applied research develops bioartificial tissues, and his group has produced quantitative metrics to track how cells develop into new tissue within bioreactors. This work could uncover essential drivers of how tissues repair and regenerate to develop innovative, future cures for chronic diseases. Together, this research opens new scientific opportunities for development of future medical treatments to improve quality of life and health.