June 18, 2009
For more information:
Outstanding Young Scientist and Engineer Honored at June 11 Ceremony
50th Anniversary of Awards Program
The Maryland Academy of Sciences and Maryland Science Center presented its Outstanding Young Scientist (OYS) and Outstanding Young Engineer (OYE) awards on Thursday, June 11, 2009, marking the 50th anniversary of the OYS program. John LaPolla, Ph.D, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Towson University was the recipient of the OYS award; Brandon Cochenour, engineer at Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) was honored with the Outstanding Young Engineer award. Both winners received the Allan C. Davis Medal and $2,500.
The OYS award was created in 1959; the OYE honor was added to the Maryland Academy of Sciences’ awards program in 1988.
The OYS and OYE awards recognize the extraordinary scientific contributions of Maryland residents under the age of 35. Professor LaPolla and Mr. Cochenour were selected by members of the Maryland Academy of Sciences’ Scientific Advisory Council, which provides expertise and content review to the Maryland Science Center.
Professor LaPolla is an invertebrate systematist focusing primarily on ant species. He uses molecular phylogenetics and field studies of biodiversity to classify and describe ant species new to science, and to build tools for identification of the species. Professor LaPolla has published 19 peer reviewed papers, one of which was a breakthrough revision of the ant genus Acropyga, a subterranean ant that “herds” mealy bugs, an important agricultural pest.
In his work for NAVAIR, Mr. Cochenour directly supports the defense initiatives of the United States Navy. He is credited with the development of a new underwater optical imaging system that merges the benefits of light detection and ranging with radar technologies to enable enhanced underwater imaging. His research also is providing the groundwork for future development of wireless technology for submarines, ocean sensors, and autonomous underwater vehicles.
Mr. Cochenour is the first recipient of the OYE award from Southern Maryland. Said Van Reiner, president and CEO of the Maryland Academy of Sciences and Maryland Science Center, “For 50 years, the OYE and OYS awards have recognized the distinguished achievements and revolutionary discoveries of Maryland scientists. The awards are an important component of the Maryland Science Center’s mission to inspire and motivate young people and to encourage the pursuit of careers in science.”
Past recipients of the OYS award include winner of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics William D. Phillips, and Jeremy Berg, currently the head of the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences at the National Institute of Health. The 2008 OYS and OYE recipients were Dr. Andrea Meredioth of the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Dr. Sharon Gerecht of The Johns Hopkins University, respectively. 2008 was the first year that both award recipients were women.
About the Maryland Science Center
The Maryland Science Center in Baltimore is visited by more than 500,000 people each year. Popular exhibits include: Dinosaur Mysteries with full-size dinosaurs and interactive paleontology activities; a day in the life of the human body in Your Body: The Inside Story; and dozens of interactive experiments in Newton’s Alley. On Saturday, May 23, the Maryland Science Center debuted the traveling exhibit Chinasaurs, a 15,000 square foot exhibition of full size dinosaurs, and rare fossils. Other attractions include the Kids Room, the five-story St. John Properties IMAX Theater, and the world-famous Davis Planetarium.
About the Maryland Academy of Sciences
Created in 1797, the Maryland Academy of Sciences is the state’s oldest scientific institution and one of the oldest such institutions in the country. Initially conceived as a scientific society, the Academy later adopted the role of interpreter of science and technology for the public, creating exhibits designed to illustrate fundamental scientific principles and industrial developments. The organization was the precursor to, and is the legal name of, the Maryland Science Center. The Academy opened its permanent location in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor in 1976.