PNNL scientist honored by Obama

A bioanalytical chemist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is receiving a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the White House announced Monday.

Wei-Jun Qian is one of 94 researchers being recognized this year with the highest honor given by the U.S. government to scientists and engineers who are in the early stage of their research careers.

"It is inspiring to see the innovative work being done by these scientists and engineers as they ramp up their careers -- careers that I know will be not only personally rewarding but also invaluable to the nation," President Obama said in a statement.

The award recognizes Qian's work in the field of proteomics. Proteins are the workhorses of cells, and proteomics seeks to understand how cells orchestrate their proteins to perform various functions.

Qian is developing more accurate methods using mass spectrometry to measure protein concentrations, which fluctuate as cells go about their daily tasks.

He also is exploring novel ways to detect how and when certain proteins undergo modifications, such as when some protein functions are turned on or off.

This information can help make the biological production of biofuels and other bioproducts more efficient. It also can help improve the way diseases are diagnosed and expand understanding of how diseases progress.

Qian's previous awards include a DOE Early Career Research Award in 2010 and a Director's New Innovator Award from the National Institutes of Health in 2009.

He has worked at PNNL since 2002, primarly at the Department of Energy's Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory on the PNNL campus.

He will be honored at a White House ceremony Oct. 14.