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NIOSH Researcher Honored, Recipient of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists & Engineers

January 31, 2017
NIOSH Update:

Contact: Nura Sadeghpour (202) 245-0673

Matthew Wheeler

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) researcher, Matthew Wheeler, was honored this month by outgoing President Barack Obama with an Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.

These Presidential awards recognize work done that is cutting edge, accelerates innovation and tackles challenges. Wheeler’s commitment to public health began early in his career, his primary goal to provide sound science that could be used by others to improve people’s lives. He began his studies at the University of Miami earning a bachelor’s of science in systems analysis in 2000 and a master’s in statistics in 2002, followed by a doctorate in biostatistics from the University of North Carolina in 2013. He joined NIOSH as a statistician in 2003.

“With research, and with science, I try to make a minimal number of assumptions in order to learn from the data itself without imposing my views on the data a priori,” said Wheeler. “At NIOSH, my work has been primarily dedicated to the development of risk assessment methods, which allow for a more reliable estimates of the true risk populations have when exposed to chemical agents.”

As a statistician, Wheeler uses a method, termed model averaging, to estimate risk by averaging multiple models all of which describe the data adequately but produce different estimates of risk on their own. This method is being adopted by other agencies in the U.S and in Europe as the preferred method of risk estimation. The work allows risk assessors to estimate the risk accurately much better than they were able to previously, reported in a study that won the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) 2014 Charles C. Shepard Science Award, category data methods and study design, a paper which can be found here.

In his work, Wheeler has most recently developed novel computer based methods for estimating the adverse response to chemical hazards for any dose, in vitro, using only the chemical structure information. At home, he is married and a father of three daughters, two of whom are adopted.

Awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service. Wheeler joins two other researchers at the CDC, Kashmira Date and Gery Guy, Jr, who also received this distinguished award.

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