USC Scientist Receives Presidential Honor

12/19/08
President George W. Bush presents Early Career Award to Keck School professor Li Zhang at the White House.
By Sara Reeve
Assistant professor Li Zhang

USC researcher Li Zhang received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers at a White House ceremony Dec. 19. The award is the nation’s highest honor for scientists beginning their independent careers.

Zhang, assistant professor of physiology and biophysics in the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, was recognized for his innovative research on the structure and function of neural circuitry in the auditory cortex.

Zhang and 11 other National Institutes of Health-supported researchers were selected by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to receive the prestigious award from President George W. Bush.

“This distinguished honor reflects upon the outstanding work of Dr. Zhang and all of our faculty at the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute,” said Keck School Dean Carmen A. Puliafito. “We look forward to Dr. Zhang’s future contributions in this important area of science.”

The Presidential Award is intended to recognize and nurture some of the finest scientists and engineers who, at the outset of their independent research careers, show exceptional potential for leadership at the frontiers of scientific knowledge.

Zhang is the first NIH-supported scientist from USC selected for this award.

“The NIH is extraordinarily proud of these 12 winners who have, early in their research careers, shown exceptional potential for scientific leadership,” said Raynard S. Kington, acting director of the National Institutes of Health. “Supporting new young scientists, particularly in these challenging economic times, is a priority. We look forward to continued success from these outstanding investigators as they push the frontiers of medical research.”

Other award recipients came from universities across the country, including Case Western Reserve University; Cornell University; Harvard University; the Robert Wood Johnson School of Medicine; the University of Maryland; the University of Texas, El Paso; the University of Vermont and the University of Washington. Two recipients came from the National Human Genome Institute at the National Institutes of Health.