Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dr. Claudia Valeggia receives prestigious PECASE award!

Congratulations to biological anthropologist Dr. Claudia Valeggia, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, who was just honored with a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. You can read about Dr. Valeggia's work as a PhD student at UC Davis here.

The award is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. Awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education or community outreach. Dr. Valeggia will receive her award from President Obama on October 14.

This is an enormous honor for Dr. Valeggia, but I also see it as hugely encouraging to our discipline as a whole. Especially in the wake of John Hawk's "call to arms" for anthropologists to work toward a more significant and visible impact in the scholarly and public spheres, Dr. Valeggia's success on the national stage indicates how vital anthropology is and how successfully it can compete and cooporate in the marketplace of ideas. Dr. Valeggia is not the first biological anthropologist to be granted this prestigious award; in 2002, Dr. Thom McDade of Northwestern University was a PECASE recipient as well. (Note: this is not intended to be an exhaustive list. Contact me if you can add some names.)

As anthropologists, we have a track record of producing and being recognized for paradigm-shifting work. It's easy to lose track of that in the quagmire of a bleak job market and internal debates about identity and future, but let's remember - and remind our students! - of the important and unique role our discipline should play in discussions of  "our origins, history, and diversity" (Yes, John Hawks, I hear you!).

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