President Obama Honors Science Professor

A Montclair State University professor  and researcher received the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on federally funded science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their careers.

Pankaj Lal, associate professor of Earth and Environmental Studies and associate director of the PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies, was among the 102 recipients of the prestigious Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers.

Photo of Panjak Lal.
Panjak Lal

In announcing the awards in January, President Barack Obama said, “These innovators are working to help keep the United States on the cutting edge, showing that federal investments in science lead to advancements that expand our knowledge of the world around us and contribute to our economy.”

Says Lal of the award: “It is extremely gratifying to get presidential validation of the research I am undertaking and an absolute honor. Personally, it gives me added confidence to continue on with my sustainable energy and resources research, which is one of the grand challenges facing modern society.”

College of Science and Mathematics Dean Robert Prezant says Lal’s work in environmental economics represents the best among emerging scientists and their disciplines: “His work reflects the broad spectrum of critical and far-reaching research within our College that informs our students and simultaneously offers important, positive benefits to our global society.”

Lal was nominated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which has funded his collaborative, interdisciplinary research that contributes to the development of a sustainable bioeconomy as a fossil fuel alternative, by assessing the socioeconomic impacts of forest- and agriculture-based biofuel development in Southern rural communities.

This is not Lal’s first award for his research. In 2016, he received a highly competitive, five-year, $450,000 Faculty Early Career Development grant from the National Science Foundation to support his research and education initiatives. His portfolio includes nearly $7.5 million in grants and contracts for research not only from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but also from the U.S. Department of Energy, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.