Newswise — PHILADELPHIA — Benjamin F. Voight, PhD, an assistant professor of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and of Genetics in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, has received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). This award is the highest honor given by the United States government to scientists and engineers during the early stages of their independent research careers.

Earlier this month, former President Barak Obama named 102 recipients of the PECASE award based on recommendations from participating federal agencies. Voight was among the recipients put forward by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. According to the White House press release, the recipients are selected for their “pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and for their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach.” Former President Bill Clinton established the PECASE award in 1996.

“It is an incredible honor to be selected for this award in recognition of the importance of our work to develop computational methods to identify genetic risk factors and genes associated with type-2 diabetes,” Voight said. His research is funded by a grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health, which nominated Voight for this prestigious award.

Voight is a human geneticist and computational biologist who studies the influence of DNA sequence variation on complex human disease. His recent work has focused on mapping risk alleles for type-2 diabetes and heart attack. “One of several important research directions in my group is to convert findings from human genetic studies into new leads for potential therapeutic targets over the long term,” said Voight.

Voight received his bachelor’s degrees in Biology and Mathematics from the University of Washington, in Seattle in 2001, and his PhD in Human Genetics from the University of Chicago in 2006. He subsequently worked as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Center of Human Genetics Research at the Massachusetts General Hospital from 2006 until 2009. From 2009 to 2011, he led projects as a research scientist at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. In September 2011, he joined Penn’s faculty at the Perelman School of Medicine. In addition to his departmental affiliations, he is a member of Penn’s Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics and the Institute for Biomedical Informatics.

Voight envisions that the computational methods and tools being created in his lab will assist in the analysis of genomic data collected from hundreds of thousands of people. “It is a fantastic time to be a computational biologist. The data available today provide so many new and interesting avenues for research. I am thrilled that the PECASE recognizes the value of our ongoing work and research mission.”