USGS research geologist Joe Colgan, research geologist Karen Felzer, and research geologist Justin Hagerty were honored by President Obama on July 23, 2012, with the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.
“Discoveries in science and technology not only strengthen our economy, they inspire us as a people,” President Obama said. “The impressive accomplishments of today’s awardees so early in their careers promise even greater advances in the years ahead.”
The Presidential early career awards embody the high priority the Obama Administration places on producing outstanding scientists and engineers to advance the Nation’s goals, tackle grand challenges, and contribute to the American economy.
Joe Colgan Has Pioneered Methods to Study Faults and Minerals in the West
Colgan’s research investigates the origins and evolution of the Basin and Range Province, a vast geologic region that covers much of the Western U.S. and parts of northern Mexico. Colgan integrates various scientific techniques, such as regional structural analysis, high-precision geochronometry, and geologic mapping, in order to learn more about the fault zones and mineral formations that exist in this region.
“Everyone at the USGS is cheering the President’s selection of Joseph Colgan for this highest honor!” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. “It is such a stunning affirmation of our deeply held belief that tackling the Nation’s foremost issues such as providing new sources of energy and minerals or keeping people safe from natural hazards does not come at the expense of doing world class basic research.”
Karen Felzer Has Developed New Ways to Study Earthquake Triggering
Felzer has contributed to the understanding of earthquake triggering, earthquake probability, and aftershock probability. Her work has greatly expanded the knowledge of how aftershocks relate to the main earthquake and shown the value of statistical analysis in seismic hazard research.
“While to date earthquakes have defied prediction in a deterministic sense, Karen Felzer is focusing on those aspects of their behavior that show intriguingly reproducible statistics, such as the relationship of aftershocks to main shocks,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. “The President’s recognition of Karen as a Presidential early career award winner is an investment in unlocking the secrets of one of the most complex and deadly phenomenon on the planet.”
Justin Hagerty Has Helped to Explain the Formation and Evolution of the Moon
Hagerty, an accomplished research geologist, studied the formation of the Moon and discovered the answer to a long-standing riddle of the Moon’s early history. His use of chemical tracers and remote sensing data allowed him to discover why certain elements are concentrated in some areas and not in others, a puzzle which had complicated the primary theory of how the Moon came to be.
“The USGS traces its program in astrogeology back nearly 50 years to the Nation’s need to train astronauts destined for the Moon in lunar geology,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. “The President’s recognition of Justin Hagerty for his contributions to explaining long-standing paradoxes concerning the early evolution of the only extraterrestrial body to which man has yet ventured is one of the highest honors yet for this exceptional program.”
The Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers was established by President Clinton in 1996 and 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.