NSB and NSF Recognize Extraordinary Science, Service with Annual Awards
2011 Vannevar Bush, Waterman and Public Service Awards Presented at Black-Tie Ceremony
The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Science Board (NSB) paid tribute on Wednesday to the achievements and public service contributions of three outstanding scientists and one innovative organization at a black-tie award ceremony in Washington, D.C.
NSF Director Subra Suresh presented his agency's highest honor, the Alan T. Waterman Award, to Casey Dunn, a Brown University comparative biologist, whose work involves understanding relationships between groups of animals.
More specifically, he uses genome analyses to investigate how evolution produces life's variety.
"I'm really excited to receive the Allen Waterman award," said Dunn before the award ceremony. "This is going to enable me to do some of the basic biology on the diversity of poorly known organisms that really is so difficult to accomplish."
Dunn, an assistant professor of biology in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Brown, will receive $500,000 during the next three years to continue his studies. He already has a shovel-ready project waiting. He plans to collect siphonophores, marine organisms that live at great depths in the open oceans. Dunn intends to use new genomic tools to learn which genes are responsible for similarities and differences among these multi-celled organisms.
In addition to Dunn's award, France A. Córdova, chairman of the National Science Board's ad hoc Committee on Honorary Awards, presented three NSB awards at the ceremony held at the U.S. Department of State.
Charles Vest, president of the National Academy of Engineering, received the National Science Board's 2011 Vannevar Bush Award for distinguished public service leadership in science and technology. "The role of science and technology in our lives is increasingly important and increasingly unique," said Vest at an NSB presentation earlier in the week.
The Vannevar Bush Award is presented annually to an individual who, through public service activities in science and technology, has made an outstanding "contribution toward the welfare of mankind and the nation."
"The Vannevar Bush Award is very special," said Vest. "There's a long history of Vannevar Bush's connection with MIT where I had the great opportunity to serve as president for 14 years, so there's some sense in which this brings something full circle."
Córdova also presented NSB's Public Service Award for an individual to Moira Gunn, the founder and host of the public radio programs Tech Nation and BioTech Nation.
"Moira Gunn's efforts to spread understanding among the public about science and engineering continue to be inspiring," said NSB Chairman Ray Bowen about her contribution.
The award honors an individual that has made substantial contributions to increasing public understanding of science and engineering in the United States.
"I believe that when you look at people who are on air, frequently you look at them as if you are in academia and you say ‘you know, you'd be a good teacher'" said Gunn, who declares she's been overcome with an "educator gene" that informs her radio programs.
Tech Nation is heard weekly on National Public Radio and is syndicated on more than 200 domestic, public radio stations. It also is heard three times weekly in 177 nations with international syndication via American Forces Radio.
Córdova also presented the NSB's Public Service Award for a group to the San Francisco-based Exploratorium, a hands-on, learning museum that receives more than 90,000 students and teachers on field trips each year, and another 3,500 students from San Francisco's underserved neighborhoods.
Dennis Bartels, the Exploratorium's executive director accepted the award on behalf of the museum. "Thus far we have worked with over 6,000 teachers and with National Science Foundation support started the very first science teacher Beginning Teacher Program," he said explaining the Exploratorium's enormous educational outreach.
Physicist Frank Oppenheimer, who founded the museum, realized that if the Exploratorium could get hundreds of teachers to spend a whole summer at the museum learning how to use the exhibits as teaching tools in their own classrooms, said Bartels, over the course of their careers they could influence many more thousands of students than those who physically visit the museum.
The NSB's Public Service award recognized the success of the approach, honoring the Exploratorium for increasing the public's understanding of the processes of science and engineering through scientific discovery, innovation and its communication to the public, and for encouraging others to help raise the public understanding of science and technology.
The NSB is the 25-member policymaking body for the National Science Foundation and advisory body to the president and Congress on science and engineering issues. Drawn from universities and industry, and representing a variety of science and engineering disciplines and geographic areas, NSB members are selected for their eminence in research, education, or public service, and records of distinguished service.
The NSB has 24 members that serve six-year terms. The 25th member is the NSF director, an ex officio member. For more background on the NSB and its current composition, visit its website.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.
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