ANN ARBOR—A University of Michigan researcher is among 16 scientists from universities across the country named as 2012 recipients of the Packard Fellowships for Science and Engineering by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Each fellow will receive an unrestricted research grant of $875,000 over five years.
Sarah Aciego is an assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences in the U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, and assistant professor of atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences in the College of Engineering,
Aciego's research synthesizes field work, laboratory experiments, and isotopic measurements to understand cryosphere processes. Her research employs novel gas adsorption techniques and the isotopic signature of heavy isotopes to reconstruct timescales of ice sheet evolution and dynamics in a changing climate
"The Packard Foundation is fortunate to be able to award this fellowship to these talented researchers. Their important work has the ability to profoundly impact the lives of their students and all of us in the world at large," said Lynn Orr, Keleen and Carlton Beal Professor at Stanford University, and Chairman of the Packard Fellowship Advisory Panel. "For 25 years, my colleagues and I at the foundation and on the advisory panel have been inspired by the Packard Fellows' creativity, leadership in their fields and important breakthroughs in science and engineering."
The 2012 fellows were selected by the Packard Fellowship Advisory Panel, a group of 12 nationally-recognized scientists and engineers, and approved by the Packard Foundation Board of Trustees, from a field of 98 researchers nominated by presidents of 50 universities that participate in the Packard Fellowship program.
The Packard Fellowship program was established in 1988 to allow the nation's most promising professors to pursue science and engineering research early in their careers with few funding restrictions and limited reporting requirements. The program arose out of David Packard's commitment to strengthen university-based science and engineering programs in recognition that the success of the Hewlett-Packard Company, which he cofounded, derived in large measure from the research and development in university laboratories.
"David Packard, my father, loved science and engineering – and scientists and engineers. He believed deeply in their importance to our future as a nation and a world," said Susan Packard Orr, board chair of the foundation. "One of his beliefs that motivated both his business philosophy and philanthropic efforts was his trust in the individual. Hire extraordinary people, give them some tools and resources, and let them invent the next great thing."
By supporting highly innovative professors early in their careers, the Foundation hopes to support scientific leaders, helping to further their promising work in science and engineering and encourage their efforts to train the next generation of scientists.
Over the past 25 years, the Packard Fellowships program has awarded $316 million to support 489 faculty members from 52 top national universities. It is among the nation's largest nongovernmental fellowships, designed with minimal constraints on how the funding is used to give the fellows freedom to think big and look at complex issues with a fresh perspective. Packard Fellows have gone on to receive additional awards and honors, including the Nobel Prize in Physics; the Fields Medal; the MacArthur Fellowships; and elections to the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering.
Packard Fellows must be faculty members who are eligible to serve as principal investigators engaged in research in the natural and physical sciences or engineering, and must be within the first three years of their faculty careers. Disciplines that are considered include physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, astronomy, computer science, earth science, ocean science, and all branches of engineering.