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Bjornstad and Weiss Earn Faculty Scholar Medals for 2007

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Ottar Bjornstad portrait David Weiss Portrait

Ottar Bjornstad (left) and David S. Weiss

Two science faculty members recently received 2007 Faculty Scholar Medals for Outstanding Achievement: Ottar Bjørnstad, associate professor of biology and entomology and adjunct assistant professor of statistics, received the life and health sciences medal; and David S. Weiss, professor of physics, received the physical sciences medal.

Established in 1980, the award recognizes scholarly or creative excellence represented by a single contribution or a series of contributions around a coherent theme. A committee of faculty peers reviews nominations and selects candidates.

Ottar Bjørnstad is recognized for his research in the area of modeling disease and animal populations. One of the best statistical ecologists in the world, he has conducted cutting-edge application of statistical modeling combined with ecological theory and experimentation. His work is focused on statistical techniques such as time series and analysis of spatial data with recent focus on transportation networks, risk mapping and geographic dissemination of acute diseases such as measles, influenza and whooping cough.

Bjørnstad completed his education at the University of Oslo in Norway, earn a bachelor's degree in biology in 1991, a master's degree in zoology in 1993, and a doctoral degree in ecology in 1997. He was a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Oslo and at Cambridge University from 1997 to 1998, and in the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at the University of California in Santa Barbara from 1998 to 2000. He joined the faculty at Penn State in 2001 as assistant professor of entomology and biology and adjunct professor of statistics. He was named co-director of the Penn State Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics in 2004. In 2005, he was promoted to associate professor. He regularly collaborates with the epidemiological unit of " Doctors Without Borders " on optimizing their vaccination campaigns in sub-Saharan Africa.

Bjørnstad was a member of the editorial boards of the journal Ecology from 2001 to 2004, and of Ecological Monographs from 2001 to 2004. Since 2003, he has been on the editorial boards of Population Ecology and the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B.

David Weiss receives his award for his work with ultra-cold atomic gases. His experiments trap atoms in optical lattices, which are crystals made of light, to address a wide range of physical problems, including quantum simulations, quantum computation and precision measurements. Along with testing fundamental theories in condensed matter physics, high-energy physics and statistical mechanics, this research could revolutionize our understanding of such important materials as high-temperature superconductors and quantum magnets and lead to new classes of materials with unprecedented properties.

He earned a bachelor's degree in physics, summa cum laude, at Amherst College in 1985, and earned master's and doctoral degrees in physics from Stanford University in 1988 and 1993, respectively. He was a postdoctoral Fellow at l'Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, France, form 1993 to 1994. He was an assistant professor at the University of California at Berkeley from 1994 to 2001. He joined the faculty at Penn State in 2001 as associate professor of physics, and was promoted to professor in 2005.

Weiss has received a Churchill Scholarship at Stanford University in 1986, a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship in 1993, a Young Investigator Award from the Office of Naval Research in 1995, an Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation in 1996. He also received a Sloan Fellowship in 1997 and a Packard Fellowship in 1997. In 2002 he was elected a member-at-large of the executive committee of the American Physical Society Topical Group on Precision Measurements and Fundamental Constants.

[ Vicki Fong / Jill Shockey ]

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