Eric Dahl, Anna Grassellino honored with Presidential Early Career Awards

Anna Grassellino

Fermilab scientists Eric Dahl and Anna Grassellino have received the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers.

The announcement was made on Jan. 9, when President Obama named 102 scientists and researchers as recipients of the PECASE, the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.

The award came as a surprise for both Fermilab recipients.

“It’s incredible, not something I expected,” Dahl said.

“I was quite emotional, very happy,” Grassellino said. “I think it’s very important to see new ideas and young researchers recognized, and I hope it will encourage more young people to pursue independent research and apply for DOE early career grants.”

PECASE awards were given to 102 researchers. Dahl and Grassellino, both recipients of a U.S. Department of Energy Early Career Research Award, are two of only six scientists or engineers funded or employed by the DOE Office of Science.

“I congratulate these outstanding scientists and engineers on their impactful work,” Obama said in a press release. “These innovators are working to help keep the United States on the cutting edge, showing that federal investments in science lead to advancements that expand our knowledge of the world around us and contribute to our economy.”

Eric Dahl

The Presidential Early Career Awards highlight the key role that the administration places in encouraging and accelerating American innovation to grow our economy and tackle our greatest challenges.

Grassellino’s Fermilab work focuses on developing particle accelerator cavities that have improved performance and are less expensive to operate.

Dahl works on the detection of dark matter and is a joint appointee with Northwestern University. For Dahl, the award indicates a national commitment to answering fundamental science questions and a recognition that building better dark matter detectors like those Dahl works on could be transformative for discovery.

“Dark matter is one of the great physics mysteries right now,” Dahl said. “It’s an incredibly broad problem, spanning astrophysics, cosmology and particle physics, and it’s one that we may be very close
to solving.”

The date for the award ceremony has not been set, but it will be held in Washington, D.C. at the White House and organized by the incoming administration. Dahl and Grassellino both said they plan to attend the ceremony.

“I need once more to thank all my colleagues and advisors at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory without whose ideas, contributions, support and dedication this would not have been achieved,” Grassellino said. “We are an effective team, and this is a recognition of our pioneering work, of our persistence and of our courage to embark in revolutionary investigations. I want to thank my funding agency, the U.S. Department of Energy, for strongly supporting young researchers and new ideas, and my dear husband and family for having always pushed me towards doing great things.”

Dahl said he also owes a debt of gratitude to colleagues family.

“I owe so much to all of my mentors over the years and to my current collaborators in PICO and LZ, not to mention the people at Fermilab, Northwestern and the Department of Energy who are making this work a success,” Dahl said. “Most of all I need to recognize the endless support and inspiration I get from my wife and kids, thank you all!”

Read more about Dahl and Grassellino‘s research.

Learn more about the Presidential Early Career Awards and see a list of all this year’s recipients.