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Engineering professor Jeanine Cook (submitted photo)

NMSU’s professor Cook wins prestigious scientists, engineers national award

New Mexico State University associate professor Jeanine Cook has been selected as one of the exclusive winners of the prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). The award was presented to Cook by President George W. Bush on Dec. 19 at the White House.

The PECASE award is one of the highest honors bestowed by the United States government on outstanding scientists and engineers beginning their independent careers, according to the Office of Science, U.S. Department of Energy Web site. Individuals can receive only one PECASE award in their careers. And only about 50 individuals throughout the U.S. are selected each year.

“The 50 national winners are a collection of world-class scientists and engineers,” said Stephen Horan, professor and department head of NMSU’s Klipsch School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “This is ratification that one of our faculty members is one of the top people in the nation.”

“Dr. Cook’s selection for the PECASE reflects on the high quality of research at this university. The PECASE is the most prestigious award in our country for early career faculty in engineering and science,” said Steven P. Castillo, dean of the College of Engineering at NMSU. Castillo emphasized that not only did Cook get the award, but NMSU alumnus Brian A. Lail will also be getting the PECASE award, at the same time Cook receives hers. Lail received a master’s in physics and electrical engineering, and a doctorate in electrical engineering from NMSU. Lail’s research interests are in applied and computational electromagnetics. He is an assistant professor at the Florida Institute of Technology.

Cook’s field of expertise is in micro-architecture simulation techniques, performance modeling and analysis, workload characterization, and micro-architectural power optimizations. She directs the Advanced Computer Architecture Performance and Simulation Laboratory at NMSU. She has a bachelor’s in electrical engineering from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, a master’s in computer science and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from NMSU.

It was her work in performance analysis with a Sandia National Laboratories program that got the attention of Sandia scientists. Cook solved performance problems on some Sandia applications. To determine where the problem was located, Cook had to build a simulator to pinpoint the exact area of the problem. It was the Sandia scientists that recommended Cook for the PECASE award. Cook found out she had won after opening a letter she got in the mail.

“I opened it (the letter) and said to myself, ‘Oh my gosh, I think I won the PECASE award,'” she said. “I couldn’t believe it and actually kept reading it over and over.” Professor Horan and Cook’s research colleague Steven J. Stochaj were present when she read the letter. They quickly eased her disbelief about the award.

Cook’s trek through academia has not been easy. Shortly after starting college in 1982 at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Cook suffered a tragic accident. She fell asleep at the wheel of her vehicle and suffered injuries that left her paralyzed from the waist down. She has been a paraplegic since 1983. Cook wants her winning the award to bring attention to people with disabilities and young women.

“I want it (award) to heighten attention for people with disabilities and secondly, I want it to heighten attention for young women,” Cook said. “I want young women to have role models to say, ‘If she did that, I can do that too.’ I really want the world to see that people with disabilities are people – we are people – we’re not to be afraid of. We can be treated just like anybody else. We’re not stupid, we’re not helpless – we’re just people.”

Interim President Waded Cruzado believes Cook has broken through many impossible barriers as a paraplegic, as a woman and as an ethnic minority to get to where she is, now. Cook’s father is Italian and her mother is Hispanic.

“Jeanine is a prime example of the outstanding faculty talent New Mexico State University strives to recruit and retain to help this land-grant university’s mission and commitment to providing the highest quality of education for its students. The NMSU family is very proud of Jeanine’s accomplishments and the honor and recognition that she has brought to herself and this university,” Cruzado said. “The distinction of receiving the PECASE award demonstrates how women, minorities and persons with physical challenges can overcome the many obstacles placed before them to succeed and exceed in their careers.”

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