UW-Madison engineer receives presidential award

December 23, 2008 By Liz Ahlberg

A University of Wisconsin–Madison engineer has been honored with the country’s highest honor for scientists at the beginning of their research careers.

Electrical and Computer Engineering Associate Professor Zhenqiang (Jack) Ma was among 67 researchers honored with a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) at a White House ceremony on Friday, Dec. 19. Since 1996, the annual PECASE awards have honored the most promising researchers in the United States, nominated by nine federal departments and agencies. Though at the start of their careers, these scientists and engineers have already demonstrated exceptional research and promise.

Ma is a leader in the field of flexible electronics, devices created with extremely thin sheets of semiconductors, called nanomenbranes, only a few atoms thick. His research team developed a thin-film transistor capable of operating at microwave frequencies-the world-record speed. “This award recognizes the advances we have made,” says Ma. “I am excited about the grant, too, because it will allow me to do a lot more.”

Ma, nominated by the Department of Defense, will receive $1 million over five years to continue his work with nanomenbrane-based flexible electronics, particularly nanophotonics, devices that detect or emit light. “There are a lot of challenges to making photonics with existing materials,” Ma says, adding that he is eager to tackle those challenges with nanomembrane technology.