Mukhtar receives presidential award for scientists and engineers

Karolina Mukhtar will be honored at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., with the 2019 PECASE award, a prestigious award for leadership in science and technology.

Karolina2Karolina Mukhtar, Ph.D., Department of Biology Karolina Mukhtar, Ph.D., associate professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s College of Arts and SciencesDepartment of Biology, has received the 2019 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers through the National Science Foundation.

The PECASE award is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government to outstanding scientists and engineers who are beginning their independent research careers and who have shown exceptional promise for leadership in science and technology. Mukhtar received the prestigious NSF CAREER Award in 2014, which made her eligible for this opportunity; it’s not an award that accepts applications. Nominations are made from current CAREER awardees and other agencies.

“Beyond the initial wave of surprise — no one really expects to receive the PECASE — I’m very proud of how far the plant biology research has come at UAB,” Mukhtar said.

Plant biology had long been a part of the biology curriculum; but when Mukhtar arrived at UAB in 2010, the university was able to make additional investments to support her research and that of others.

“I’m very pleased that the first PECASE at UAB honors this research direction for our department and for our campus,” Mukhtar said. “This will definitely help gain more visibility for our growing plant biology program and enable us to recruit quality students.”

Mukhtar says UAB played a large role in helping her to receive this honor.

“I have to acknowledge the help from UAB Facilities, which assisted in establishing a small plant growth facility,” Mukhtar said. “I’m grateful for their support and patience with resolving various technical issues.”

“I appreciate the confidence of the Biology’s departmental administrators, who entrusted me with teaching a large introductory Genetics class BY210 right from my very first semester at UAB. It allowed me to quickly gain a very solid amount of classroom teaching experience, which in turn made me better qualified to come up with a competitive educational component of my CAREER award. I’d also like to acknowledge UAB Service Learning for extensively preparing me to integrate community outreach into my research and teaching through its Faculty Fellows program.”

“The College of Arts and Sciences is particularly proud of Dr. Mukhtar for receiving the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government for scientists and engineers in the early phases of their careers,” said Dean Robert Palazzo. “This comes in addition to other previous awards she has won during her career development at UAB, including winning the prestigious NSF CAREER Award.”

“In addition to her personal success, she has been selfless in helping to mentor other younger professors to prepare them for competitions for similar awards. As a result of these programs, the College of Arts and Sciences has won six NSF Early Career Awards in the last nine years. Dr. Mukhtar has been instrumental to that effort and for that success.”

Established in 1996, PECASE acknowledges the contributions scientists and engineers have made to the advancement of science, technology, engineering and mathematics education and to community service as demonstrated by scientific leadership, public education and community outreach. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy coordinates the PECASE with participating departments and agencies.

Mukhtar says her lab’s research efforts will continue to advance.

“We will certainly continue our work on the mechanistic basis of plant immunity to a bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas syringae, focused on the cellular regulatory processes such as Unfolded Protein Response and translational reprogramming,” Mukhtar said. “We also have some new, exciting research directions, stemming from the 2014 CAREER award.”