Noah J. Cowan, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, has been named a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award (PECASE), the United States government's highest honor for scientists and engineers in the early stages of their independent research careers.
Cowan is one of 94 men and women selected this year to receive the award, to be presented during an October 14th ceremony. The awardees, from universities around the country, excel in research in a variety of scientific disciplines. Cowan was among 21 honorees nominated by the National Science Foundation.
At Johns Hopkins, Cowan directs the Locomotion in Mechanical and Biological Systems (LIMBS) Laboratory. His research team studies how animals process sensory information to control their movements. The group also designs sensor-based robotic control systems inspired by animal models.
"This is a tremendous honor," says Cowan. "And in many ways, I feel as though I am carrying the torch for all the talented students and colleagues I have been fortunate enough to work with during my career."
Cowan was selected for his innovative research in biologically inspired robotic systems with application to disaster recovery and space exploration and for motivating students to explore careers in science and engineering.
"I focus on bringing together engineering, biology and neuroscience, and tying it back to robotics," says Cowan. "This award allows me to be an ambassador for this multidisciplinary approach."
Cowan, who grew up in central Ohio, received his bachelor's degree at Ohio State in 1995 and his master's and doctoral degrees at the University of Michigan in 1997 and 2001, respectively, all in electrical engineering.
From 2001 to 2003, he completed a postdoctoral fellowship at UC Berkeley in integrative biology. In 2003, Cowan joined the Johns Hopkins faculty.
The PECASE honor that Cowan will receive is given out through a program established by President Clinton in February 1996. Two other Johns Hopkins University scholars received the award this year: Brian S. Caffo and Katherine L. O'Brien, both of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.