White House honors former Vanderbilt fullback and engineer Bara Cola

Prof. Cola

Baratunde “Bara” Cola, a Vanderbilt mechanical engineering graduate and former walk-on fullback on the Commodore football team, was named by President Obama on July 23 as one of 96 recipients of the 2012 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE).

The PECASE is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on outstanding scientists and engineers in the early stages of their independent research careers. The White House, following recommendations from participating agencies, confers the awards annually. Some of the winning scientists and engineers receive up to a five-year research grant.

Cola, BE’02 and MS’04, is an assistant professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech.

According to the White House, Cola was selected for his outstanding research on energy conversion, nanoscale transport and materials; and for significant outreach and educational activities involving K-12 science and art students and teachers from disadvantaged minority communities.

Cola believes that with jobs and energy arguably at the center of public discourse right now that his research on nanoengineered energy technologies is highly relevant, thus the possibilities are very exciting.

“The challenges and opportunities of nanoscience and nanoengineering have attracted many great minds to these fields, which makes interactions with students and colleagues within the community very rewarding personally,” said Cola.  “Most of all, I have found that the mix of energy and nanoengineering has opened wide the door to a multifaceted life as a teacher-researcher-entrepreneur, which is exactly where I want to be right now.”

At Vanderbilt, Cola was actively involved in research while playing football, which contributed to his winning the School of Engineering Stein Stone Memorial Award and the Football Team Dedication Award.

Cola “walked on” to the football team and earned a scholarship as a starting fullback in his final year after recovering from two ACL injuries to his right knee.

Compiled from various sources