Gunduz receives Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers

Dr. Aysegul Gunduz, associate professor and J. Crayton Pruitt Family Term Fellow, has been named a 2019 recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) by President Donald Trump.

The PECASE, established in 1996, is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government to outstanding scientists and engineers who are at the beginning of their independent research careers and are showing exceptional promise for leadership in science and technology.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) nominated Gunduz to receive the PECASE for her work on developing smarter therapeutic deep brain stimulation that can adapt to the current pathological state of the brain in humans with neuropsychiatric disorders. Her research, funded in part by her NSF Early Career Award, focuses on finding precursors to behavior and after-effects of stimulation in neural networks through electrophysiology and bioimaging. Gunduz and her research team aim to translate this knowledge into diagnostic and therapeutic tools to improve quality of life for those suffering from neurological disorders such as epilepsy, Tourette syndrome and Parkinson’s disease.

A recipient of the Program Builder Award from the newly established Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases at UF Health, Gunduz has been a leader in building a successful neuromodulation program through an interdisciplinary effort by the UF Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering and the UF College of Medicine.

The PECASE also acknowledges the contributions scientists and engineers have made to the advancement of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and to community service as demonstrated by scientific leadership, public education, and community outreach.

Gunduz is a standing member of the Emerging Imaging Technologies for Neuroscience (EITN) Study Section for the NIH Center for Scientific Review. This group reviews applications to develop biomedical imaging for studying problems in neuroscience. Members are selected based on their demonstrated competence and achievement in their scientific discipline as evidenced by the quality of research accomplishments, publications in scientific journals, and other significant scientific activities, achievements and honors.

Gunduz serves as the Diversity Officer for the J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering. She was honored with the 2019 Graduate Education Diversity Champion Award, a joint honor bestowed by the UF Multicultural Association of Graduate Students and the UF Graduate School’s Office of Graduate Diversity Initiatives. In 2017, she received the Denice Denton Emerging Leader ABIE Award for high-quality research and significant positive impact on diversity.

When asked what winning the PECASE meant to her personally, Gunduz gave this reply: “As the son of a postman who delivered mail on foot to rural villages in Turkey, my father became a physician and a full professor. He used to tell me that, as the daughter of a full professor, I should work at NASA someday. I think for his generation, the moon mission made a great impact. He agrees that this award will make do for me not becoming a rocket scientist.”