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September 22, 2004

Three Stanford researchers win president's early career award

Three Stanford researchers were among 57 of the nation’s most promising young scientists and engineers honored with 2003 Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). The award is the nation’s highest honor for professionals at the outset of their independent research careers. John H. Marburger III, science adviser to President Bush and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, presented the awards Sept. 9 at a White House ceremony.

Eight federal departments and agencies annually nominate scientists and engineers at the start of their careers whose work shows the greatest promise to benefit the nominating agency’s mission. The National Science Foundation nominated all three Stanford winners.

Erica L. Plambeck, assistant professor of operations, information and technology in the Graduate School of Business, was honored for applying innovative approaches to optimize real-time information for industrial issues such as movement in the supply chain, and dynamic control of pricing and production. Her use of game theory, statistics, adaptive control, dynamic programming and more aims to provide results that may be widely shared with industry and incorporated into business and engineering schools’ M.B.A. and Ph.D. teaching materials, to prepare students to become future industrial and academic leaders.

Juan G. Santiago, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, was lauded for conducting innovative research in microfluidics, a field with an expanding role in the creation of chemical laboratories on a chip. The goal of this work is to improve the sensitivity, resolution and speed of chemical and biological lab tests. He employs “electrokinetics” to perform “workhorse” tasks -- such as sample handling, concentration, separation and binding -- in compact devices with no moving parts. His research has application in devices that enable fundamental discoveries in genetics and creation of new pharmaceuticals and biomedical device designs. Santiago is incorporating his research into his undergraduate and graduate instructional materials, and works to interest high school and university students from underrepresented groups in science and engineering.

Ravi Vakil, assistant professor of mathematics, a theoretician at the forefront of modern algebraic geometry, studies complicated geometric objects having subtle structure known as “moduli spaces.” He was praised for leading a study of the moduli space of curves, to deepen a growing understanding of “universal facts” about curves. His work touches on many core areas of mathematics, as well as string theory in physics. He has engaged in significant outreach in the Bay Area devoted to stimulating mathematics learning, and has written two books and established a journal introducing high school and undergraduate students to mathematics through hands-on problem solving.



Dawn Levy, News Service: (650) 725-1944,


Erica Plambeck, Graduate School of Business: (650) 736-1080,

Juan G. Santiago, Mechanical Engineering: (650) 723-5689,

Ravi Vakil, Mathematics: (650) 723-7850,

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