January 15, 2010
JPL oceanographer Josh Willis was honored by President Obama at the White House on Wednesday, Jan. 13, as a recipient of this year's Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. The award is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on scientists and engineers in the early stages of their independent research careers. It recognizes researchers whose early career accomplishments show the greatest promise for strengthening America's leadership in science and technology and contributing to the awarding agencies' missions.
John Holdren, President Obama's science advisor and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, presented the award to Willis at a ceremony at the Department of Commerce in Washington, along with NASA Associate Administrator Lori Garver. Willis was among 100 scientists and engineers selected for this year's award from among nine federal departments and agencies.
Following the ceremony, the recipients met with President Obama at the White House. President Obama said, "You have been selected for this honor not only because of your innovative research, but also for your demonstrated commitment to community service and public outreach. Your achievements as scientists, engineers, and engaged citizens are exemplary, and the value of your work is amplified by the inspiration you provide to others."
A researcher in JPL's Ocean Circulation Group, Willis uses data collected by satellites and at sea to study the impact of global warming on the ocean. His studies of ocean warming and sea level rise have been widely used by colleagues around the world and were cited in the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That report shared the 2007 Nobel Peace prize with Vice President Al Gore. Willis frequently lectures to the public and works with students to educate them about climate change issues and human impacts on global warming.
Willis holds a bachelor of science degree in physics and mathematics from the University of Houston; a master of science degree in physics from the University of California, San Diego, in La Jolla, Calif.; and a doctorate in oceanography from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego. He joined JPL in 2004. His previous honors include JPL's Charles K. Witham Environmental Stewardship Award.
More information is online at: http://www.ostp.gov/galleries/press_release_files/PECASE%20OSTP%20Press%20Release2%20revised.pdf and http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2009-108 .