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About Sigma Xi » News » 2008 Award Winners Announced

February 12, 2008

2008 Sigma Xi Awards Honor Leaders in Science and Engineering

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC - NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Director Charles Elachi, Inforex President Robert Boily, General Motors researcher Patrick Usoro and University of Oxford mathematician Mason Porter have been selected to receive the top annual awards presented by Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society.

In addition, New York Times science writer Natalie Angier and former Congressman Sherwood "Sherry" Boehlert have been tapped for induction as Honorary Life Members of the Society.

Charles Elachi will receive Sigma Xi's highest honor, the William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement. As JPL's director for space and Earth science programs from 1982 to 2000, he was responsible for the development of numerous flight missions and instruments for Earth observation, planetary exploration and astrophysics.

The Procter Prize has been presented annually since 1950 to an outstanding scientist or engineer who is known for effective communication of complex ideas. The prize includes a Steuben glass sculpture and $5,000, plus the honor of bestowing a $5,000 Sigma Xi Grant-in-Aid of Research on a colleague working in the same field.

Robert Boily of Laval, Quebec, Canada, will receive Sigma Xi's John P. McGovern Science and Society Award, presented annually since 1984. The award consists of a medal and a $5,000 honorarium.

He is the founder of Inforex, a Canadian company that has helped to advance knowledge in such areas as medical imaging, biotechnologies, environment, defense technologies, energy, electronics, aerospace and advanced materials.

Patrick Usoro will receive Sigma Xi's 2007 Walston Chubb Award for Innovation. He is a Technical Fellow at the General Motors R&D Center in Warren, Michigan. He has led technical innovations that will enhance function, performance and efficiency and lower the cost of future vehicle systems. He holds more than 160 U.S. patents and has published more than 50 technical papers and reports.

The Chubb Award, designed to honor and promote creativity among scientists and engineers, carries a $4,000 honorarium. This is only the third time the award has been presented.

Mason Porter will receive Sigma Xi's 2008 Young Investigator Award. He is a faculty member in applied mathematics at the University of Oxford and a Tutorial Fellow at Somerville College. Porter's research interests are nonlinear science and complex systems, including classical and quantum chaos, billiard systems, nonlinear waves, Bose-Einstein condensation, granular media and social networks.

The Young Investigator Award includes $5,000 and a certificate of recognition. Sigma Xi members within 10 years of their highest earned degree are eligible for this award.

Natalie Angier and Sherwood "Sherry" Boehlert will be inducted as Sigma Xi's newest honorary members. Angier is an author and Pulitzer Prize-winning science columnist for the New York Times. Her latest book is The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science (Houghton Mifflin, 2007), a guide to the fundamental concepts of modern science that researchers in all the major scientific disciplines wish that everybody understood about their work.

Audubon New York called Boehlert "one of the greatest conservation leaders ever to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives." He served in Congress from 1982 to 2006 and chaired the House Science Committee. Congressional Quarterly named him one of the 50 Most Effective Lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Since 1983 some of the nation's top science journalists, as well as others who have made important contributions to science or Sigma Xi, have been elected honorary members.

The 2008 Sigma Xi awards will be presented at the Sigma Xi Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference, set for November 20-23 at the Renaissance Washington, DC Hotel. Profiles of award winners will appear in upcoming issues of Sigma Xi's magazine, American Scientist.

Founded in 1886, Sigma Xi is the international honor society of research scientists and engineers, with more than 500 chapters at colleges and universities, government laboratories and industry research centers. Membership is by invitation, in recognition of research potential or achievement. Over the years, more than 200 Sigma Xi members have received the Nobel Prize. In addition to publishing American Scientist, the non-profit Society awards hundreds of grants annually to student researchers and sponsors a variety of programs that support science and engineering.

Charles Elachi
2008 William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement
Charles Elachi is the director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and vice president of the California Institute of Technology. He joined JPL in 1970 and is professor of electrical engineering and planetary science at Caltech. Elachi has been a principal investigator on a number of research and development studies and flight projects sponsored by NASA. These include the Shuttle Imaging Radar series, the Magellan imaging radar at Venus and the Cassini Titan radar. He is author of more than 230 publications in the fields of active microwave remote sensing and electromagnetic theory, and holds several patents in those fields. As JPL's director for space and Earth science programs from 1982 to 2000, he was responsible for the development of numerous flight missions and instruments for Earth observation, planetary exploration and astrophysics. In 1989, asteroid 1982 SU was renamed 4116 Elachi in recognition of his contribution to planetary exploration. Elachi has chaired a number of strategic planning committees for NASA. He has lectured in more than 20 countries about space exploration and Earth observation. He participated in a number of archeological expeditions in Egypt, Oman and China. His numerous awards have included being honored as one of "America's Best Leaders" by U.S. News & World Report (2006), the Royal Society of London's Massey Award (2006), Lebanon's Order of Cedars (2006), the American Astronautical Society's Space Flight Award (2005), the National Defense Industrial Association's Bob Hope Distinguished Citizen Award (2005) and NASA Exceptional Service Medal (2005). He is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the International Academy of Astronautics. Download a high-resolution photo

Robert Boily
2008 John P. McGovern Science and Society Award
Robert Boily of Laval, Quebec, Canada, is president and founder of Inforex, a Canadian company specializing in research, analysis, interpretation and communication of science and technology intelligence. The company has helped to push the limits of knowledge in several sectors such as medical imaging, biotechnologies, environment, defense technologies, energy, electronics, aerospace and advanced materials. Boily's career spans over 30 years at the forefront of science and technology. A researcher, analyst and communicator of international science and technology, he is also an important catalyst of research and innovation and a senior consultant providing S&T Intelligence to government, research laboratories, industry and academia in the fields of aerospace, biotechnology, nanotechnology, energy, chemicals, life sciences, advanced materials, medical imaging, robotics, environment, photonics, pharmaceuticals and electronics, to name a few. He has conducted more than 700 science and technology knowledge projects, supporting scientific research initiatives totaling over $350 million dollars and leading to several important discoveries and innovations. Because he communicates science to decision-makers having the authority to make things happen, hundreds of science and technology projects have been successfully launched or completed, many of them having important consequences for our future, especially in the sectors of health, energy and environment. His many honors and awards include fellowship in the Royal Society of Arts, the World Academy of Art and Science, the World Innovation Foundation and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. A member of Sigma Xi, Boily is also a life member of the Royal Canadian Institute for the Advancement of Science and a member of the Mensa Society. He has served on several boards and committees related to science, technology and research ethics, and is the only non-U.S. citizen to have received the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association Award for Meritorious Service. Download a high-resolution photo

Patrick Usoro
2008 Walston Chubb Award for Innovation
Patrick Usoro is a Technical Fellow at the General Motors R&D Center in Warren, Michigan. He joined GM R&D in 1985 and has led technical innovations in power train dynamics and control, transmission mechanism synthesis, advanced hybrid systems, mechatronics, and mechamatronics - a GM key strategic technology area that he initiated. His focus is on innovative technologies to enhance function, performance, efficiency and cost of future vehicle systems. He holds more than 160 U.S. patents and has published more than 50 technical papers and reports. Many of his innovations have been implemented on GM products and have earned him the GM R&D Master Inventor Platinum Award, Campbell Award for Outstanding Contributions to Science and McCuen Special Achievement Awards for Extraordinary Technical Accomplishments. His other honors include the GM Chairman's Best-of-the-Best Honors award for development of an innovative magneto-rheological fluid fan drive; and GM "Boss" Kettering top technical honor awards for an active driveline damping system and for pioneering work in mechanisms synthesis which led to the generation of novel multi-speed transmissions, including GM's six-speed front-wheel-drive automatic transmission that offers significant cost and vehicle fuel economy benefits. In 1996 he was recognized as the U.S. Black Engineer of the Year for outstanding technical contributions. Usoro is a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the Society of Automotive Engineers and Sigma Xi. He served as chairman of the ASME Energy Systems Committee and as associate editor of the ASME Journal of Dynamic Systems, Measurements and Control. He was appointed to the National Science Foundation Committee of Visitors for the Dynamic Systems and Control program. Since 2004 he has served as a commissioner of the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, the body that accredits engineering programs in universities across the U.S. and globally. Download a high-resolution photo

Mason Porter
2008 Young Investigator Award
Mason Porter was born in Los Angeles, California. He graduated from Beverly Hills High School in 1994 before heading for the greener pastures of Caltech, from which he earned a B.S. in applied mathematics in 1998. He subsequently earned a Ph.D. in applied mathematics from Cornell University in 2002, with a dissertation on quantum chaos, before embarking on postdoctoral jobs at Georgia Tech (jointly in mathematics and the nonlinear physics group), the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (in their semiclassical analysis program during the spring 2003 semester), and Caltech (in the Center for the Physics of Information and the condensed matter theory group). Porter joined the University of Oxford as a faculty member in applied mathematics in October 2007 and is also a Tutorial Fellow at Somerville College in Oxford. His research interests encompass a diverse set of areas in nonlinear science and complex systems, including classical and quantum chaos, billiard systems, nonlinear waves, Bose-Einstein condensation, granular media, nonlinear optics, social networks and so on. Porter has also mentored more than 30 undergraduate research students and published several expository papers. He has coauthored a book (published in May 2007) on Caltech pranks. In his copious free time, Porter immerses himself in all sorts of games (including board games, video games and role-playing games), a few sports (mainly ping pong and frisbee), fantasy and science fiction books, movies, blogging and thinking about baseball whenever possible. Download a high-resolution photo

Natalie Angier
2008 Honorary Sigma Xi Life Member
Author and New York Times science columnist Natalie Angier graduated with honors from Barnard College. At the age of 22, she was hired as a founding staff reporter and writer for Discover magazine. She also worked as the senior science writer for Time magazine; an editor at the women's business magazine, Savvy; and a professor of journalism at New York University. In 1990, she began writing for the New York Times, covering genetics, evolutionary biology, medicine and other subjects. Just 10 months later, she won a Pulitzer Prize for a series of 10 feature articles on a wide array of scientific topics. Her books include Natural Obsessions, an inside look at the high-throttle world of cancer research; The Beauty Of The Beastly, a hymn to the multitudinous, mostly invertebrate creatures we'd rather forget; and Woman: An Intimate Geography, a celebration of the female body and biology. In 2002, she edited The Best American Science and Nature Writing. Her latest book is The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science. She has also written for the Atlantic Monthly, The American Scholar, Wired, Parade, Washington Monthly, Reader's Digest, Natural History, Geo, and Preservation, among others. Her work has appeared in The Best American Science Writing (2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2005) and The Best American Science and Nature Writing (2000, 2003, 2005 and 2006). Her many honors include the American Association for the Advancement of Science Prize for Excellence in Science Journalism, the Lewis Thomas Award for distinguished writing in the life sciences, the Exploratorium's Public Understanding of Science Award and the General Motors International Award. In the fall of 2007, Angier begin a five-year term as the Andrew D. White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University. She lives in Takoma Park, Md., with her husband, Rick Weiss, a science reporter for the Washington Post, and their daughter. Download a high-resolution photo

Sherwood "Sherry" Boehlert
2008 Sigma Xi Honorary Life Member
Former Congressman Sherwood Boehlert represented Central New York State in the U.S. House of Representatives for 12 terms. During his 24 years of service, Boehlert built a legacy as a moderate, focusing on consensus-building and results. He served on the House Science Committee for his entire Congressional career and in 2001 was elected its chairman. In addition, he was third-ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. From 1995 to 2000 he served as chairman of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment. Boehlert was also a long-time member of the House Intelligence Committee and a founding member of the House Committee on Homeland Security. Congressional Quarterly named him one of the 50 Most Effective Lawmakers on Capitol Hill; National Journal dubbed the long-time environmental leader "The Green Hornet," and Time magazine cited him as a go-to "power center" in the House. Boehlert retired from the House in 2007. He joined The Accord Group, where he is Of Counsel. Additionally, the former lawmaker serves with former Governor Mark Warner (Va.) and former Senator Slade Gordon (Wash.) as co-chair of the Bipartisan Policy Center's Transportation Project for the 21st century. Boehlert is on a number of boards of directors including the Alliance for Climate Protection (Gore group); the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund; the League of Conservation Voters; the Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment; and the Republican Main Street Partnership. Download a high-resolution photo

 

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