News Release 11-068

The National Science Board Announces Recipient of 2011 Public Service Award

Dr. Moira Gunn, founder of Tech Nation, to receive award for far-reaching contributions to increasing public understanding of science and engineering

Photo of Dr. Moira Gunn.

Dr. Moira Gunn. (Credit and Larger Version)

April 1, 2011

The National Science Board (NSB) announced today that the founder of the public radio program Tech Nation, Moira Gunn, will receive its 2011 Public Service Award.

Gunn's expertise in science, engineering and education, combined with her experience in broadcasting, allows many in the general public to understand the excitement and promise of science. As such, she receives the award for her far-reaching contributions to increasing the public understanding of science and engineering.

The NSB Public Service Award is typically given to one individual and one group--a company, corporation or organization--each year. The award honors individuals and groups that have made substantial contributions to increasing public understanding of science and engineering in the United States. These contributions may be in a wide variety of areas that have the potential of contributing to public understanding of and appreciation for science and engineering--including mass media, education and/or training programs, entertainment, etc.

On Tech Nation, which Gunn founded in 1993, essential scientific concepts are seamlessly interwoven with mainstream interviews and commentary. Recurring themes include the impact of technology on society, the call for everyday citizens to understand the nature of science and engineering, the responsibility of the technology creator, appropriate expectations regarding the life cycle and behavior of technology, the need for innovation and the social-political-business environment required to foster it.

Gunn was the first female to earn a PhD in mechanical engineering from Purdue University. She then went on to work on global modeling and robotics engineering at NASA. She also worked at the U.S. Department of Agriculture where she developed a patent in human nutrition measurement.

She currently serves as the managing director of Biotechnology Programs in the School of Business and Professional Studies at the University of San Francisco. There she developed a biotechnology concentration in the university's MBA program, which is open to all graduate students at the university. Notably, there is no science prerequisite, as everything necessary is taught within each course using an approach she calls "Minimalist Science," meaning the least one needs to know to get the point.

"Moira Gunn's efforts to spread understanding among the public about science and engineering continue to be inspiring," said NSB Chairman Ray Bowen. 

Gunn's signature efforts have also reached into print. Her book, Welcome to BioTech Nation: My Unexpected Odyssey into the Land of Small Molecules, Lean Genes, and Big Ideas was cited in "Best Science Books of 2007" by the Library Journal.

Gunn will receive the Public Service Award at a black-tie dinner and ceremony on May 10 at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., along with the President of the National Academy of Engineering Charles Vest, who is this year's recipient of the Board's Vannevar Bush Award. Gunn and Vest will be joined by the winner of the NSB's group public service award, which will be announced in the coming week. The National Science Foundation's Alan T. Waterman awardee, Casey Dunn of Brown University, also will be honored with his award that evening.

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 of the NSB.

Visit the NSB's website for more background information on its current composition.


Media Contacts

Bobbie Mixon, NSF, (703) 292-8485,

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2022 budget of $8.8 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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