Medina is the second UC Merced faculty member to receive the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). The award recognizes outstanding scientists and engineers who, early in their careers, have demonstrated exceptional leadership potential, innovative research and community service.
The PECASE is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government to scientists and engineers beginning their independent careers. Medina is one of 20 winners nominated by the National Science Foundation (NSF). NSF's PECASE nominees were selected from among those who received awards under the agency's Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER).
"UC Merced has received this honor two years in a row," said Dean Maria Pallavicini of the School of Natural Sciences. "This is a remarkable testament to the world class talent of our faculty and the research environment at UC Merced."
Medina traveled to Washington, D.C., for today's award ceremony at the White House, where she was recognized for her research on coral reefs. Her lab is examining how different environmental stressors, such as elevated sea surface temperature and ocean acidification, are affecting the life history of coral reefs. Medina's lab uses a combination of tools ranging from bioinformatics and genomics to molecular biology and physiology. The outcome of her research could contribute to conservation and management in these endangered marine habitats.
"It's an amazing recognition," Medina said. "Besides validating my work, I feel with this award, NSF and the White House are recognizing the importance of basic research on topics related to climate change."
Students in Medina's lab have the opportunity to produce environmental podcasts through the university's Web site. The podcasts are broadcast in English, Spanish and Hmong, three languages representative of the Central Valley populations.
The NSF's PECASE awardees hail from universities and research institutes from across the country, including Yale University, Stanford University, Brown University and Johns Hopkins University.
Before accepting a faculty appointment at UC Merced in 2005, Medina was a research scientist with the Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute. Medina earned her doctoral degree from the University of Miami and her undergraduate degree from the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia.
Medina is the second UC Merced faculty member to receive a PECASE award. Last year, assistant professor Shawn Newsam from the School of Engineering received an award for his interdisciplinary research in knowledge discovery in complex data. The PECASE program was established in 1996.