Meghan Duffy, a 2012 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) awardee, takes samples in Congaree National Swamp in South Carolina. PECASE is the U.S. government's highest honor for scientists and engineers in the early stages of their independent research careers.
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Meghan Duffy's work has taken her from small ponds in Michigan to a heavily polluted lake in central New York--and even as far as Antarctica. She is studying parasites, tiny organisms that feed on their hosts. Much of Duffy's research focuses on the parasites that feed on small, freshwater crustaceans, called Daphnia. "[Daphnia] are very important links in lake food webs, but, just as important, they are a great model system for understanding host-parasite interactions in general," said Duffy.
Duffy, an assistant professor of biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology at the time, was one of 20 individuals nominated by the National Science Foundation to receive the PECASE award in 2012. Those nominated by NSF were among 100 total recipients of the award. The winners traveled to Washington, D.C., in late July, where they received their awards from the White House and met with NSF officials.
The awards, established by President Bill Clinton in February 1996, are coordinated by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Award nominees are considered against two criteria: Their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology, and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education or community outreach.
Duffy, who earned her Ph.D. from Michigan State University in 2006, previously received NSF's Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award for her research on the evolution of host-parasite interactions. Duffy hopes that her research on Daphnia and their parasites will have broader application "to systems that are economically important," she explained.
In addition to recognizing her research, the PECASE award commended Duffy for providing educational opportunities for college students in underrepresented minority groups and inner-city K-12 students in Atlanta, Ga.
Duffy is now at the University of Michigan. (Date of Image: March 2009)