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Office of News & Public Affairs

BC Physicist Receives Presidential Early Career Award

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. (November 9, 2010) – Boston College physicist Willie J. Padilla has been named by President Obama as a recipient of a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.

Padilla, whose work is at the forefront of the creation of new types of "metamaterials," is one of 85 researchers selected by the White House to receive the prestigious PECASE grant awards this year.

Associate Professor of Physics Willie Padilla
Physics Associate Professor Willie Padilla

"Science and technology have long been at the core of America's economic strength and global leadership," President Obama said. "I am confident that these individuals, who have shown such tremendous promise so early in their careers, will go on to make breakthroughs and discoveries that will continue to move our nation forward in the years ahead."

BC Provost and Dean of Faculties Cutberto Garza said the young physicist's award is fitting recognition for his leading research.

“It is deeply satisfying when a prestigious honor is bestowed upon one of Boston College's own,” Garza said. “I am delighted by the news of Professor Padilla's well-deserved recognition by the White House.  His scholarly accomplishments, creativity, and innovation are indeed impressive, having attracted national and international attention. This award not only reflects positively on Professor Padilla, but speaks to the strengths found in the Department of Physics, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the University, and to our shared commitment to faculty excellence.  It is an occasion for all of us to celebrate.”

Padilla was quick to praise the support he's received from his colleagues and the University since he joined the BC faculty in 2006.

"I'm honored and humbled to receive this award," said Padilla, an associate professor. "I'm grateful to BC for their support of my research and extend my appreciation to my colleagues in Physics and researchers I've worked with in other departments. This award will allow me to further my research and to continue to teach and mentor Boston College undergraduate and graduate students."

Ferris Professor of Physics and Department Chairman Mike Naughton said Padilla's research is on the cutting edge of metamaterials – metallic constructs that are given unique abilities through their novel architectures – has been published in leading scientific journals and led to speaking engagements around the world.

A condensed matter experimental physicist, Padilla's work has advanced the field by focusing on the performance of different varieties of metals used in the construction of metamaterials.

"Willie has been recognized as an emerging leader in his field," said Naughton. "This grant really allows him to invest his time and effort into pushing the field further and advancing this science at BC. His work is highly interdisciplinary and he's looking into areas like biomedical uses of metamaterials and bringing more graduate and undergraduate students into the field. All of this helps to put BC in a leadership position in this area of science and technology."

In addition to his teaching, research and publishing, Padilla has received numerous grants and mentored undergraduate researchers, Naughton said.


--Ed Hayward, Boston College Office of News & Public Affairs, ed.hayward@bc.edu