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Academy Honors 17 for Major Contributions to Science

WASHINGTON -- The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) will honor 17 individuals with awards in recognition of extraordinary scientific achievements in the areas of biology, chemistry, geology, astronomy, and psychology.

The 2010 recipients are:

Date: Jan. 20, 2010
Contacts: Maureen O'Leary, Director of Public Information
Alison Burnett, Media Assistant
Office of News and Public Information
202-334-2138; e-mail

John Alroy, associate researcher at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is the recipient of the NAS Award for Scientific Reviewing.  Alroy is being honored for developing the Paleobiology Database, which has produced an extraordinarily extensive synthesis of paleontological data that has been driving the field of paleobiology forward in ways that would have been previously impossible.  The prize of $10,000 -- given this year in the field of geosciences -- recognizes excellence in scientific reviewing.  The award is supported by Annual Reviews, Thomson Reuters, and The Scientist in honor of J. Murray Luck.

 

Norman R. Augustine, retired chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin Corp., is the recipient of the NAS Award in Aeronautical Engineering.  Augustine is being honored for his service to the nation as a dedicated aeronautical engineer, a leader in the aerospace defense industry, a public servant, a civic leader, and a thought leader in the engineering profession.  The award, established by Dr. and Mrs. J.C. Hunsaker, comes with a $15,000 prize and recognizes distinguished contributions to aeronautical engineering.

 

Louis E. Brus, Samuel Latham Mitchill Professor of Chemistry at Columbia University, is the recipient of the NAS Award in Chemical Sciences.  Brus is being honored for his leading role in the development of a fundamental building block for nanoscience, colloidal semiconductor nanocrystals, and for his contributions to our understanding of the quantum effects that control their optical properties.  Supported by the Merck Company Foundation, the award -- consisting of a medal and prize of $15,000 -- honors innovative research in the chemical sciences that contributes to a better understanding of the natural sciences and to the benefit of humanity.

 

Sallie W. Chisholm, Lee and Geraldine Martin Professor of Environmental Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is the recipient of the Alexander Agassiz Medal. Chisholm is being honored for pioneering studies of the dominant photosynthetic organisms in the sea and for integrating her results into a new understanding of the global ocean.  The award, which consists of a medal and $15,000 prize, recognizes original contribution in the science of oceanography.

 

Andre K. Geim, Langworthy and Royal Society 2010 Anniversary Research Professor of Physics at the University of Manchester, is the recipient of the John J. Carty Award for the Advancement of Science.  Geim is being honored for his experimental realization and investigation of graphene, the two-dimensional form of carbon.  Established by the American Telephone and Telegraph Co., the Carty Award -- a medal and $25,000 prize recognizing noteworthy and distinguished accomplishment in any field of science -- is being presented in the area of physics in 2010.

 

Margaret J. Geller, senior scientist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, is the recipient of the James Craig Watson Medal.  Geller is being honored for her role in critical discoveries concerning the large-scale structure of the universe, for her insightful analyses of galaxies in groups and clusters, and for her being a model in mentoring young scientists.  The award -- consisting of a medal, a $25,000 prize, and a gift of $25,000 to an institution of the recipient’s choosing -- recognizes contributions in astronomy.

 

Alan D. Howard, professor in the department of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, is the recipient of the G.K. Warren Prize.  Howard is being honored for his seminal contributions on the theory of fluvial erosion, sedimentation, and landscape evolution.  Established by Emily B. Warren in memory of her father, the award honors noteworthy and distinguished accomplishment to fluviatile morphology and closely related aspects of the geological sciences and is accompanied by a $10,000 prize.

 

Gerald F. Joyce, professor in the departments of chemistry and molecular biology at the Scripps Research Institute, will receive the first Stanley Miller Medal of the NAS Award for Early Earth and Life Sciences.  Joyce is being honored for his pioneering experiments on the self-sustained replication and evolution of RNA enzymes (ribozymes), which illuminate key conceptual steps in the origin of life.  The NAS Award for Early Earth and Life Sciences was established by the NAS Council by combining two awards -- the Charles Doolittle Walcott Award and the Stanley Miller Medal.  The Stanley Miller Medal recognizes outstanding research on the early Earth and comes with a medal and a $10,000 prize.

 

Michael J. Kahana, professor in the department of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, and Frank Tong, associate professor in the department of psychology at Vanderbilt University, will each receive a Troland Research Award.  Kahana is being honored for innovative experimental, theoretical, and computational work leading to new insights regarding the dynamics of human episodic memory.  Tong is being honored for pioneering the use of neural decoding techniques to explore mechanisms in the human brain mediating perception, attention, and object recognition.  The Troland Research Awards of $50,000 each are given annually to young investigators to recognize unusual achievement and to further empirical research within the broad spectrum of experimental psychology.

 

Jeannie T. Lee, Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and a professor of genetics and pathology at the Harvard Medical School at Massachusetts General Hospital, is the recipient of the NAS Award in Molecular Biology.  By using X-chromosome inactivation as a model system, Lee has made unique contributions to our understanding of epigenetic regulation on a global scale, including the role of long, non-coding RNAs, interchromosomal interactions, and nuclear compartmentalization.  Sponsored by Pfizer Inc, the award -- consisting of a medal and prize of $25,000 -- recognizes a recent notable discovery in molecular biology by a young scientist.

 

Marcia Neugebauer, adjunct research scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory of the University of Arizona, is the recipient of the Arctowski Medal.  Neugebauer is being honored for definitively establishing the existence of the solar wind, critical to understanding the physics of the heliosphere, and for elucidating many of its key properties.  The award -- consisting of a medal, a $20,000 prize, and a gift of $60,000 to an institution of the recipient’s choosing -- recognizes outstanding contributions to the study of solar physics and solar-terrestrial relationships.

 

Roger A. Nicoll, professor in the departments of cellular and molecular pharmacology and physiology at the University of California, San Francisco, is the recipient of the NAS Award in the Neurosciences.  Nicoll is being honored for his seminal discoveries elucidating cellular and molecular bases for synaptic plasticity in the brain.  The award recognizes extraordinary contributions to progress in neuroscience and comes with a $25,000 prize.

 

Janet D. Rowley, Blum-Riese Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine, Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology, and Human Genetics at the University of Chicago, is the recipient of the Jessie Stevenson Kovalenko Medal.  Rowley is being honored for her discovery of recurring chromosome translocations that characterize specific hematological malignancies, a landmark event that caused a major shift in the paradigms relating to cancer biology in the 1970s and paved the way for development of specific treatment for two leukemias.  The award, consisting of a medal and a prize of $25,000, recognizes important contributions to the medical sciences.

 

Mark Tygert, assistant professor in the department of mathematics at New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, is the recipient of the NAS Award for Initiatives in Research.  Tygert is being honored for his development of fast algorithms in mathematical physics, operator compression, and linear algebra, using deep, innovative ideas based on randomization and harmonic analysis.  The prize of $15,000 is awarded to recognize innovative young scientists and encourages research likely to lead toward new capabilities for human benefit.  The award -- established by AT&T Bell Laboratories in honor of William O. Baker and supported by Alcatel-Lucent -- is being presented in 2010 in the field of numerical methods.

 

Watt W. Webb, professor of applied physics and S.B. Eckert Professor in Engineering at Cornell University, is the recipient of the Alexander Hollaender Award in Biophysics.  Webb is being honored for pioneering the applications of rigorous physical principles to the development of optical tools that have broadly impacted our ability to examine biological systems.  The award, consisting of a prize of $20,000, recognizes contributions from an outstanding biophysicist.

 

An awards ceremony for the recipients will take place on April 25 during the Academy’s annual meeting.  Also to be honored is Eugenie C. Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), who was chosen to receive the Academy's Public Welfare Medal.  Scott is being honored for championing the teaching of evolution in the United States and for providing leadership to the NCSE.  The medal was established to recognize distinguished contributions in the application of science to the public welfare and has been presented since 1914.

 

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit honorific society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare.  Since 1863, the National Academy of Sciences has served to "investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art" whenever called upon to do so by any department of the government.