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BYU chemist wins government’s highest award for young scientists

The White House named Brigham Young University chemist Adam Woolley a winner of the highest award the government offers to young scientists, citing his research on detecting cancer marker proteins.

Woolley is one of 58 researchers across the country awarded this year’s Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. It’s the first such award to a BYU professor. Woolley is also the only Utahn in this year’s crop of winners.

“I am delighted for Professor Woolley and for BYU,” said Academic Vice President John Tanner. “This is a significant recognition for a young scientist. It speaks highly of Professor Woolley’s past accomplishments and bodes well for a bright future.”

The National Institutes of Health nominated Woolley for the award and funds his work on the development of miniature devices that separate and analyze proteins. The NIH-funded project aims to enable these devices to detect liver cancer at early stages.

“Adam is an exceptionally talented scientist who combines that talent with an outstanding work ethic,” said Paul Farnsworth, chair of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department at BYU. “He adds dedicated teaching and citizenship to his scholarly achievements, making him, in my view, an excellent model for young faculty at BYU.”

A ceremony held Nov. 1 in Washington included a group photo with President George W. Bush on the north portico of the White House.

Woolley earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from BYU in 1992. He went on to complete a Ph.D. at Cal-Berkeley in 1997 and was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard before returning to teach at BYU in 2000. In addition to his work on protein analysis, Woolley collaborates with BYU scientists on two other projects. One is a multi-disciplinary team at BYU working on a new approach to making nano-electronic devices. The other project aims to develop enhanced methods for chemical separations.

According to The Office of Science and Technology Policy, the award was established in 1996 to honor “the most promising researchers in the nation within their fields.” With the award, Woolley gets up to five years of funding from the NIH to further his research on miniature protein analysis devices. More information about the award program is available at

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BYU chemist Adam Woolley and other recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers stand for a photo with President George W. Bush outside the White House November 1. Woolley is the second person from the left in the fourth row.
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