The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has announced their annual award recipients—to recognize 18 extraordinary scientific achievements in a wide variety of fields.
Established by an Act of Congress, signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, the NAS is committed to furthering science. To that end, since 1886, they have honored outstanding achievement in the physical, biological, and social sciences through its awards program. The current (and first female) president of the NAS is Marcia Kemper McNutt, a geophysicist who previously served as editor in chief of the journal Science. Here, we highlight a portion of the recipients who have made advances in the biomedical space. More information on each recipient can be found here.
Jacqueline K. Barton from California Institute of Technology, will receive the NAS Award in Chemical Sciences for pioneering contributions to our understanding of the chemical and biological properties of the DNA double helix.
Sharon R. Long from Stanford University, will receive the Selman A. Waksman Award in microbiology for molecular biology research on the symbiosis between plants and nitrogen-fixing bacteria that explains how some plants thrive without nitrogen fertilizer, making agriculture and natural environments more sustainable.
Liqun Luo from Stanford University, will receive the Pradel Research Award for pioneering research into neural circuits of invertebrates and vertebrates. Luo developed the Mosaic Analysis with a Repressible Cell Marker (MARCM), a genetics technique for specifically labeling isolated mutant cells within an otherwise normal fruit fly, a model organism for genetics research which allowed Luo to study single neurons within a complex brain. Luo’s work has focused on the olfactory system.
Eve Marder from Brandeis University, will receive the NAS Award in the Neurosciences for research that provides insight into the human and animal brain. Marder and her research group studied small groups of neurons called ganglia from lobsters and crabs. These ganglia only have about 30 neurons, the activity from which can be easily analyzed and recorded. More information on her work and her influence in the field can be found in Charlotte Nassim’s 2018 book, “Lessons from the Lobster: Eve Marder’s Work in Neuroscience.”
Norman R. Pace from the University of Colorado, will receive the NAS Award in Early Earth and Life Sciences – Stanley Miller Medal for pioneering work into the diversity of life on Earth. Pace’s advances in the field of microbial ecology came through studying microorganisms from diverse environments, such as deep-sea vents and caves, that has resulted in a tenfold increase in the known number of phyla of bacteria—a major contribution to our understanding of the planet’s diversity of life.
David Reich from Harvard Medical School, will receive the NAS Award in Molecular Biology leading the field in studies into ancient DNA and human migration by collecting genome-wide data on more than 6,000 ancient humans and producing more than half the world’s published human ancient DNA data.
Jay Shendure from the University of Washington, will receive the Richard Lounsbery Award for his pioneering work in developing new technologies that make DNA sequencing faster, cheaper, and more useful and his work in cell-free DNA.
Xiaowei Zhuang from Harvard University, will receive the NAS Award for Scientific Discovery for her pioneering contributions to super-resolution imaging and genomic-scale imaging methods. She developed the Stochastic Optical Reconstruction Microscopy (STORM) technique which overcomes the diffraction limit of resolution of traditional light microscopes and is capable of creating images of cells and tissues with nanometer-scale resolution.
The winners will be honored in a ceremony on Sunday, April 28, during the National Academy of Sciences’ 156th annual meeting.
Winners in other fields are:
Elizabeth Ainsworth, USDA Agricultural Research Service, will receive the NAS Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences for researching how climate change will affect crops.
Anna K. Behrensmeyer, Smithsonian Institution, will receive the G.K. Warren Prize for contributing to our understanding of how environmental factors drive evolution.
Adriana Galván, University of California, Los Angeles, and Tom Griffiths, Princeton University, will each receive a Troland Research Award. Galván is honored for her pioneering work studying adolescent brain development and behavior. Griffiths is recognized for his research into how people and machines make decisions.
Robert C. Kennicutt, Jr., University of Arizona and Texas A&M University, will receive the NAS Award for Scientific Reviewing for field-defining work in the field of astrophysics.
Michal Lipson, Columbia University, will receive the Comstock Prize in Physics for her pioneering work in the field of silicon photonics.
John C. Martin, Gilead Sciences Inc., will receive the NAS Award for Chemistry in Service to Society for his tireless contributions to human health, including treatments for HIV/AIDS.
Ola Svensson, School of Computer and Communication Sciences at EPFL, will receive the Michael and Sheila Held Prize for his elegant work on algorithms for discrete optimization problems.
Jane S. Richardson, Duke University, will receive the Alexander Hollaender Award in Biophysics for her pioneering work into the understanding of protein structures.
Michelle F. Thomsen, Planetary Science Institute and Los Alamos National Laboratory, will receive the Arctowski Medal for her discoveries related to planetary and solar physics.