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Two young Stanford scientists receive Presidential award

Two Stanford scientists ­ Paul Khavari and Charles Marcus ­ were among 60 young, independent researchers who received the first annual Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers on Dec. 16 in a White House ceremony.

The new awards, presented by President Clinton, recognize demonstrated excellence and promise of future success in scientific or engineering research, and the potential for eventual leadership in their respective fields. The candidates are nominated by agencies of the federal government, and recipients receive up to $500,000 over a five-year period to further their research.

"From the ranks of these outstanding young researchers will come tomorrow's leaders in science and technology, our university faculties and our Nobel laureates," said John H. Gibbons, assistant to the president for science and technology. "The talents of these young professionals will create the world of the 21st century."

Paul A. Khavari, assistant professor of dermatology


Khavari's research involves using the skin as a vehicle for gene therapy of both dermatologic and systemic diseases. A recent laboratory project, reported in the November issue of Nature Medicine, involved removing and repairing skin samples from people with a rare but debilitating disease, lamellar ichthyosis. Leaders in the field cautiously predict that the technique reported by Khavari and colleagues could lead to corrective gene therapy on patients with debilitating skin diseases within two to three years. Khavari received his M.D. in 1988 from Yale University and a doctorate from Stanford in molecular biology in 1993, when he joined the faculty as an assistant professor. He currently serves as chief of the dermatology service at the V.A. Palo Alto Health Care System.

Charles M. Marcus, assistant professor of physics


How randomness arises in nature out of atomic perfection is the focus of Marcus's research. At the level of the single atom, nature is perfectly ordered and each elemental atom is exactly identical. At the macroscopic level of everyday life, by contrast, disorder, randomness, and unrepeatability appear. By fabricating ultra-miniature semiconductor structures known as quantum dots that lie midway in size between atomic and bulk scales, Marcus has shown that even structures free of disorder can exhibit random behavior due to the quantum mechanical signatures of chaos.

Quantum dots are tiny spots of electrical conductor, a ten-thousandth of a centimeter across, that are given a precise shape using advanced nanofabrication techniques. Although the quantum dot is free of disorder, certain of its electrical properties vary randomly when it is subjected to an external magnetic field, Marcus has found. Marcus received his B.S. in physics at Stanford in 1984, with honors and departmental distinction, and his doctorate in physics from Harvard University in 1990. He joined the Stanford faculty in 1992.


By David F. Salisbury