DATE:  August 3, 2006
CONTACT: Dr. Eugene Billiot, Associate Professor, College of Science and Technology, (361) 825-2680; or Steve Paschal, Public Affairs, (361) 825-2336

White House Honors Dr. Eugene Billiot with Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers
Dr. Eugene Billiot, an associate professor in the College of Science and Technology at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, was honored as one of 20 recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) during a White House meeting with President George W. Bush.

The award, sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on scientists and engineers early in their careers. Twenty professors were honored from the approximately 400 who received NSF grants.

“Dr. Billiot is an innovative, industrious professor and his passion for research translates to the classroom. He actively encourages students to become involved in science and research,” said University President Flavius Killebrew.

Billiot was recognized for his work to separate pharmaceutical drugs from their asymmetrical molecules. (Asymmetrical molecules are mirror images of one another that cannot be imposed one over the other.) He likens the process to a handshake where two right hands bond together but a right and a left hand are unable to unite. This could lead to the development of pure forms of medications that eliminate potentially dangerous side effects.

“Developing ways to separate compounds can help us avoid the mistakes of the past,” said Billiot. “In the 1950s, it was common for women in Europe and Japan to take Thalidomide for depression and morning sickness. Unfortunately, it was found to cause birth defects. By separating compounds and selling only the pure form of a medication, these kinds of tragedies can be averted.”

“Dr. Billiot is just one example of the outstanding talent at A&M-Corpus Christi,” added Killebrew. “We’re proud of his accomplishments and excited about the possibilities this research holds for the future.”

The NSF is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering.