Oak Ridge National Laboratory


News Release

Media Contact: Ron Walli (wallira@ornl.gov)
Communications and External Relations


Four ORNL minority scientists receive Science Spectrum honors

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., May 25, 2006 — Four Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers have earned honors from Science Spectrum magazine for being top minorities in their respective fields.

Justin Baba of ORNL's Engineering Science and Technology Division is the recipient of the 2006 Most Promising Scientist Award to be presented at the Minorities in Research Science Awards Conference Sept. 16 in Baltimore. The Emerald Honors are awarded to African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans and Native Americans working in the research sciences.

Baba, a native of Nigeria, moved to the United States in 1990 and earned a bachelor's degree in aviation from LeTourneau University. He earned his doctorate degree from Texas A&M University in August 2003. Baba joined ORNL's Monolithic Systems Development Group as an R&D associate in September 2003 and has since been named a staff engineer.

Baba has worked on numerous biomedical and photonics projects, including the development of a light polarization-based non-invasive skin cancer detection devise. Other projects include developing nano-based surgical tools for retinal procedures, photonics-based organ transplant blood perfusion monitoring and tissue assessment implantable sensors. Baba and his wife, Carmen, reside in Knoxville.

Earning the magazine's Trailblazers awards were Neena Imam and Phani Nukala, both of the Computer Science and Mathematics Division, and Samuel McKenzie of the Spallation Neutron Source Accelerator Systems Division. The Trailblazer is awarded to outstanding Hispanic, Asian American, Native American and African American professionals whose leadership and innovative thinking on the job and in the community extend throughout and beyond their industry.

Imam earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the California Institute of Technology, a master's in electrical engineering from Case Western Reserve University and a doctorate in electrical engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology. She joined ORNL's Computer Science and Mathematics Division in November 2002.

Research areas of interest for Imam include hyper-spectral imaging for missile tracking applications, ultra-fast signal processing for sonar, and design and implementation for digital signal processing. Imam was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and is a resident of West Knoxville.

Nukala received a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, India, and master's and doctorate degrees in civil engineering from Purdue University. He has been a research staff member at ORNL since 2001.

Nukala's research interests are in the broad areas of computational mechanics and materials science, statistical physics, multi-scale methods, bio-inspired materials and high-performance scientific computing. He was born in Kakinada, India, and resides in Knoxville.

McKenzie, a radiation control and environmental safety and health officer, earned a bachelor's degree from Fisk University and a master's degree from the University of Memphis. McKenzie joined ORNL in 1990 and worked with a variety of laser research systems and did extensive work in thin-film technology and vacuum deposition techniques. McKenzie also served as the division laser safety officer.

In 2000 McKenzie was named to his present position, which involves providing technical and regulatory support to the Accelerator Systems Division for the Spallation Neutron Source, a $1.4 billion facility to study materials. He resides in Knoxville.

Imam, Nukala and McKenzie will receive their awards at a conference Sept. 14-16 at the Baltimore Convention Center.

UT-Battelle manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the Department of Energy. To learn more about these awards, visit www.ccgmag.com/emerald.