January 23, 2024
Staff Accomplishment

Jefferson Receives Early Career Alumni Award

PNNL data scientist recognized for early career success from two renowned universities

Brett Jefferson

Photo by Andrea Starr | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Brett Jefferson has been a data scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) since 2018. He currently serves on the leadership team for the Mathematics for Artificial Reasoning in Science (MARS) Human Factors team and is a team leader for the Human Factors and Interactions team in the National Security Directorate. Jefferson was recently recognized for his determination and success in his research space with an early career award from Indiana University (IU) Bloomington in the Psychological and Brain Sciences Department.

Jefferson studied mathematical psychology at IU, with a special interest in cognitive models and topological data analysis. His experience in using mathematics to model human perception gives him a unique perspective in representing large-scale data and understanding human cognitive factors.

Prior to 2012, Jefferson was “all math, all the time,” getting his undergraduate degree in mathematics from Morgan State University. “After my time at MSU, I went to IU to further my education in mathematics,” said Jefferson, “but I ended up feeling like that department wasn’t a fit for me, so I started searching for other opportunities. That’s when I found mathematical psychology.”

Although he did not go to IU to get a degree in mathematical psychology, Jefferson grew an interest in cognitive science by applying his skills to common questions in that space. “In our lab, we spent a lot of time researching processes associated with visual perception for decision-making and early perception while factoring in different dimensions, such as facial structure and skin tone,” said Jefferson. He applies this knowledge to his human factors work today at PNNL.

Both PhD recipients and undergraduates are eligible for the early career award. The selection process for determining the winner is highly specific and involves a committee reviewing nominations.

“There are a lot of takeaways from this department hosting these awards every year. Not every department does this, so it’s special. The fact that the institution acknowledges those taking the degree out into the workforce is wonderful and I have a deep feeling of appreciation,” said Jefferson.

This is not the first award that Jefferson won this year. He was recognized by MSU, a historically Black college and university, with the alumnus of the year award from the Department of Mathematics. Jefferson continues to highlight his educational experiences and the importance of open communication in academics and the workforce that helped him on his journey.

“I am so grateful for the staff, faculty, and students that were in that program with me. It was a collaborative spirit and atmosphere where I felt comfortable to ask unique questions,” said Jefferson. “And I feel like that same spirit of collaboration and openness to questions largely hold true here at PNNL.”