The White House honored a Kansas University researcher on Thursday with one of 100 Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers.
Joy Ward, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, earned the highest government honor for young scientists for her research on plants that grew during the last Ice Age, more than 18,000 years ago.
“There is a lot of very good research in this country,” Ward said. “I was very honored and humbled to receive this recognition.”
Ward said she has looked at how plants have responded to varying carbon dioxide levels — a gas that plants depend on for photosynthesis — through time.
Ancient air bubbles inside ice cores show that carbon dioxide levels are about half what they are today.
Ward has simulated that environment in a controlled study and observed the effect on plants.
The research will have implications for the future as carbon dioxide levels continue to rise, she said.
“These extraordinarily gifted young scientists and engineers represent the best in our country,” President Barack Obama said in a release. “With their talent, creativity, and dedication, I am confident that they will lead their fields in new breakthroughs and discoveries and help us use science and technology to lift up our nation and our world.”
As part of the award, she earns a trip to the White House this fall with other recipients, where, she said, she hoped to get an opportunity to meet the president.
She said she looked forward to the opportunity to meet with other young scientists from a number of fields and with scientists from the White House’s Office of Science and Technology.
Ward had already won a Career Award from the National Science Foundation that qualified her for the presidential honor.