2012 Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science Recipient

Baratunde Cola

Baratunde Cola is honored for his commitment to an exceptional research career while sharing his passion for science and engineering by engaging in creative and collaborative outreach with teachers and students in underrepresented communities. He works with K-12 teachers to create broadly dispersed education materials in the fields of nanotechnology and energy conservation, from hands-on engineering competitions to nanotechnology-inspired art displays.

Cola is an assistant professor at George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and Director of the NanoEngineered Systems and Transport Laboratory at Georgia Institute of Technology. His research is focused on fabricating and exploring the properties of nanostructured materials, surfaces, and interfaces to improve energy transport and conversion.

Cola received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Vanderbilt University and his Ph.D. in 2008 from Purdue University, all in mechanical engineering. At Purdue, he was honored with an Intel Foundation Fellowship, a Purdue Doctoral Fellowship, and a NASA Institute of Nanoelectronics and Computing Fellowship. He was also the recipient of the Purdue College of Engineering’s “Outstanding Dissertation Award” for his research on photoacoustic characterization of carbon nanotube array thermal interfaces. He is a recipient of a 2011 NSF CAREER Award and 2009 DARPA Young Faculty Award. President Barack Obama selected him to receive the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientist and Engineers (PECASE) in 2012 for his work in nanotechnology, energy, and outreach to high school art and science teachers and students.

Cola has focused on public engagement on many fronts, working to inspire K-12 students and their teachers to learn about the latest research in nano- and energy technologies. He has formed new partnerships with teachers in many school districts to engage with hundreds of high school students, working with teachers to develop nanotechnology-focused lesson plans, and inspired art students and teachers to produce a nanotechnology-inspired public art display. He also negotiated to attain a tabletop scanning electron microscope for a science classroom at a high minority, low-income school and developed a hands-on engineering design competition to explore the fundamentals of heat transfer.

AAAS’s First Endowed Award

As issues at the interface of science and society—from disease research to global climate change, evolution, human embryonic stem cell research, neuroscience, and others—take on increasing importance, the new Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science seeks to encourage efforts to promote interactive dialogue between scientists and non-scientific, public audiences. By highlighting and celebrating successful examples of public engagement, AAAS and our partners aim to communicate the importance of such efforts and create models for other scientists and engineers.

AAAS is grateful to Bob and Margee Hazen for their vision in initiating this award and for their generous gifts to establish the endowment that funds it. We also wish to acknowledge Bruce and Betty Alberts, Alan and Agnes Leshner, David Evans Shaw, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and the Noyce Foundation for their leadership support, as well as the many others who made contributions to make this award a reality.