Dr. Carlson Goes to Washington

My recent visit to Washington, D.C. to receive the PECASE award was amazing, overwhelming, unbelievable, such an honor…

White House
Cruising by the White House! (photo by Erin Carlson)

My visit to Washington, D.C. started on Wednesday, May 4th with a ceremony at the National Science Foundation (NSF). Twenty-one of the 105 awardees who were in DC to receive the Presidential Early Career Award for Science and Engineering (PECASE) were affiliated with NSF, with two of us being chemists. (The other ~80 awardees were associated with other national science institutes such as the National Institutes of Health, Department of Education, Department of Energy, etc.) We each gave a ~1 minute talk about our work and service.

NSF PECASE ceremony – with NSF Director Dr. France Córdova (photo courtesy of Rob Margetta of the NSF Office of Legislative and Public Affairs)
NSF chemistry recipients
NSF Chemistry PECASE recipients: David Masiello, University of Washington; Evelyn Goldfield, NSF Program Officer; Erin Carlson, University of Minnesota; David Rickcliffe, NSF Program Officer (photo courtesy of Kathy Covert)

Wednesday afternoon there was a ceremony for all PECASE recipients at the USDA. Awards were given by Jo Handlesman, Associate Director for Science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. She is well known for her work in bacterial communication, which is also one of my research areas.

Thursday morning we went to the White House. They checked our IDs multiple times, sent us past a K-9 unit and then we got to explore the White House library, red room, blue room, green room…

Just browsing in the White House library… (photo by Erin Carlson)

When President Obama came and spoke with us, his first comment was, “Scientists and Engineers Rock!” We took a big group photo with the President standing in the middle of all the PECASE winners.

PECASE group photo
President Barack Obama joins recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) for a group photo in the East Room of the White House, May 5, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson) I’m in the middle row, 7th from the left!

After the photo, he shook every person’s hand – I wish that I can say that I said something cool to him – instead I was worried about forgetting my own name when I introduced myself!

Here is the White House blog post from that day – I was honored with a specific mention!

Thursday afternoon, I was interviewed along with 10 other scientists by The Science Coalition – the topic was largely about the importance of federal funding of science. Some of this footage might end up in the press… we shall see! You can watch the entire hour-long session here.

I’m so grateful to my family, friends, and colleagues for their support, friendship and belief over the years. Everyone in my life helped to get me here.

family photo
With my proud parents, Jo and Robert Carlson at the NSF ceremony (photo by Erin Carlson)