Alumnus honored with Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers

January 25, 2017

Dr. Matthew Wheeler

Dr. Matthew Wheeler

Matthew Wheeler, PhD, alumnus of UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the United States government upon science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.

President Barack Obama announced the award for Wheeler and 101 other American scientists on Jan. 9.

“I congratulate these outstanding scientists and engineers on their impactful work,” President 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.”

The awards, established by President Clinton in 1996, are coordinated by the Executive Office of the President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy. 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.

Wheeler works on the development of risk assessment methods at the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

He recently returned from temporary assignment to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where he developed software to be included in their risk assessment evaluations. He also has developed novel ways to estimate adverse response to chemical hazards of any dose size, using only the chemical structure information.

“This work, if replicated and extended,” Wheeler said, “has potential to be groundbreaking. It will allow us to estimate chemical responses across a range of doses instead of a single dose, which is the current standard, and to develop methods of chemical toxicity screening before the chemical even is developed – obviously a great benefit to occupational safety and health. As these methods are similar to those used in pharmaceutical drug development, it also has potential to be extended in this area, where it could be used to hone in on chemicals with therapeutic attributes, using computer models, before the chemical is developed and tested in the lab.”

“Matt distinguished himself by being an excellent researcher from day 1, with a great knack for identifying important scientific problems and relentlessly pursuing a solution,” said Amy Herring, ScD, Carol Remmer Angle Distinguished Professor of Children’s Environmental Health and associate chair in the Gillings School’s Department of Biostatistics. “I am delighted the President chose to honor him for his strong contributions to health science.”

Wheeler earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Miami University (Ohio) and a doctoral degree in biostatistics from the Gillings School in 2013.


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Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or dpesci@unc.edu