National Awards for Early Career Research go to Two A&S Professors

Dr. Jason Pienaar and Dr. Adam Hauser
Dr. Jason Pienaar, assistant professor of biological sciences, and Dr. Adam Hauser, assistant professor of physics and astronomy

From the UA News Center | During the past academic year, two professors in the College of Arts and Sciences at The University of Alabama received national recognition early in their careers for leading-edge research that will advance knowledge and enhance the educational experience.

The National Science Foundation selected the two professors for a CAREER Award, one of the nation’s most prestigious recognitions of top-performing young scientists. The grants allow each researcher to train and motivate a new generation of scientists and engineers not only at UA through instruction and hands-on lab work, but also through outreach efforts to schools and the community.

“National recognition for the University’s early-career researchers is an external validation of the quality of our faculty,” said Dr. Russell J. Mumper, vice president for research and economic development. “The research supported by these grants improves the educational experience for our students and brings forward-thinking solutions to some of society’s toughest challenges. The University of Alabama congratulates these faculty members for this prestigious award.”

An NSF CAREER Award will fund projects by Dr. Adam Hauser, assistant professor of physics and astronomy, and Dr. Jason Pienaar, former assistant professor of biological sciences.

Hauser’s award seeks to understand how complex materials with three or more elements can be ordered in a crystal structure with atomic precision. The creation of two-element ordered materials led to many technologies used today, including cell phones and high-efficiency solar panels. However, a blueprint for three-element atomic ordering has proved elusive for decades. These materials are needed in information technology, solar cells, lighting, microwave communications, thermoelectrics and power electronics. Hauser proposes to create a quantitative predictive model for atomic ordering in complex alloys to solve this problem and lead to the next generation of technologies.

With his award, Pienaar will investigate the coevolution of the micro-animals tardigrades with the mosses and lichens they inhabit, specifically their joint adaptations to survive extreme dryness. Through studying the genetic, phenotypic and ecological interaction of tardigrades, sometimes called water bears or moss piglets, with their environments, Pienaar hopes shedding light on the joint mechanisms to survive complete dehydration can be used to understand and manage drought resistance in crops and other organisms as well as to alleviate cellular damage during space travel.

Currently, 36 UA faculty from disciplines across campus received NSF CAREER Awards during their tenure.