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UB's Blair Johnson receives White House award for young scientists

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Tue, Jul 23rd 2019 03:25 pm

Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers recognizes researchers for their contributions to STEM fields

A University at Buffalo researcher is among the recipients of a prestigious national honor for young scientists.

Blair Johnson, Ph.D., received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). It’s the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government to outstanding scientists and engineers who are beginning their independent research careers and who show exceptional promise for leadership in science and technology, according to the White House.

President Donald Trump announced this year’s recipients earlier this month. Awardees will be honored July 25 at an event at the Daughters of the American Revolution building in Washington, D.C.

“I was completely shocked to receive this awesome news. It is personally a great honor to receive this award and it reflects the great work that we have been doing in the Center for Research and Education in Special Environments (CRESE) over the years,” said Johnson, an assistant professor of exercise and nutrition sciences in UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions.

His current research is focused on understanding the effects of water immersion on autonomic activity, ventilatory control, and cerebral vascular function. He is also studying the pathophysiology associated with a concussion and developing novel strategies to reduce concussion symptoms and improve recovery time.

“Blair is an exceptional scientist who is making important contributions to our understanding of breathing control,” said Dave Hostler, chairman of the department of exercise and nutrition sciences. “PECASE is the ultimate early-career award as this elite group is considered to be the best of the best. Simply being nominated was an honor. Winning the award shows the confidence of the selection committee on his upward career trajectory.”

Established in 1996, the PECASE acknowledges the contributions scientists and engineers have made to the advancement of science, technology, education and mathematics (STEM) education, and to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education and community outreach.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy coordinates the PECASE with participating departments and agencies.

Recipients are nominated by a federal agency. Johnson was nominated by the Office of Naval Research, part of the Department of Defense. He has been a part of several UB studies funded by ONR, including one examining oxygen toxicity – a potentially lethal condition that can occur at deep depths at high pressure – in U.S. Navy divers.

“The high caliber of research being conducted by Blair was clearly recognized. We are extremely proud of him and this tremendous achievement,” said Jean Wactawski-Wende, dean of the School of Public Health and Health Professions.

Johnson received his Ph.D. in kinesiology from Indiana University, Bloomington. He also holds a master’s in human performance from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and a bachelor’s in human performance/fitness and physical education from North Dakota State University.

He was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, before joining UB in 2014.

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