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National science award winners include two from Purdue

Two Purdue professors will be at the White House next week to receive recognition for their work. They are recipients of the Presidential Early Career awards for Scientists and Engineers.

Entomology Assistant Professor Ian Kaplan says he was surprised to learn about the nomination and is honored to be recognized for his work on ecological pest management.

"People are familiar with insects that are pests, but a lot of species are beneficial. Whether they're native bees that pollinate crops or insects that eat other insects that are pests."

His work includes understanding plant-insect interactions and the chemical ecology of insects to implement best practices. Kaplan says an administrator at the U.S. Department of Agriculture nominated him for the award.

"Most of our work deals with understanding, using ecological approaches towards pest management in agricultural systems, mostly vegetable crops."

Engineering Education Assistant Professor Alice Pawley researches why some groups have remained chronically under-represented in engineering degree programs.

"It's a pretty hot topic. There is a lot of interest in the area. There's a lot of recognition that under-representation is a problem. So, I knew that was of interest to a lot of people."

Pawley also received a Faculty Early Career Development award in 2010 from the National Science Foundation. She says to receive funding from the NSF and then to have them nominate her work for the presidential award is a real honor.

"What's most important is that we're using story-telling methods to hear about [students'] experiences. We're using those to think about how institutions, like universities and colleges of engineering, are designed to allow to make life easier for some lived experiences and more difficult for others."

The awards are given out at a White House ceremony next week.