News Release

Barbara Schaal, world-renowned plant biologist, science leader, and educator, to receive NSB Public Service Award

Barbara Schaal, Mary-Dell Chilton Distinguished Professor of Biology and Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis,  honored with the 2019 National Science Board Public Service Award on May 14, 2019.

Barbara Schaal, 2019 NSB Public Service Award recipient (Credit and Larger Version)

April 11, 2019

The National Science Board (NSB, Board) is pleased to announce that Barbara Schaal, Mary-Dell Chilton Distinguished Professor of Biology and Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, will be honored with the 2019 NSB Public Service Award.


This esteemed award honors exemplary service in promoting public understanding of science and engineering.


Schaal is widely recognized for her pioneering research in plant science and her leadership in addressing critical domestic and global challenges. She was among the first plant biologists to use molecular biology-based approaches to understand evolutionary processes in plants, and she has worked throughout her career to advance public understanding of plant molecular systematics and population genetics.


“Barbara Schaal is a world-class scientist, with a strong commitment to her students and their careers,” said Kent Fuchs, chair of the NSB’s Committee on Honorary Awards. “Barbara is both mentor and educator, ensuring her students have a strong foundation in basic science, world-class research experiences, and a sense of responsibility to public service.”


Schaal’s recent work includes collaborating with students and peers to investigate the evolutionary genetics of plants, with an aim of enriching important food crops such as rice and cassava.


Schaal has held many significant positions throughout her career, including serving as president of the Botanical Society of America, the Society for the Study of Evolution, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and U.S. National Academy of Sciences, where she served as vice president for eight years. 


“As a biologist, educator and administrator, I am a firm believer that science is for everyone,” said Schaal. “We just have to continue to make science as accessible and relevant as we can. I’m honored to receive this award from the National Science Board and want to share it with my incredible colleagues at AAAS and NAS, my former students, as well as science advocates and educators everywhere who do the crucial work of reaching people every day.”


The Board will present Schaal with the NSB Public Service Award on May 14 at the National Science Foundation Annual Awards Ceremony held in Washington, D.C.


The Board established the award in 1996. The annual award recognizes people and groups (e.g., companies, corporations, organizations) that have increased the public's understanding of science or engineering. Past Public Service Award individuals include Jane Goodall, Stephen Jay Gould, Craig Barret, Alan Alda (Scientific American Frontiers), and Dean Kamen (FIRST®).


About the National Science Board

The National Science Board and the National Science Foundation's Director jointly head NSF. NSB identifies issues critical to NSF's future and establishes the Foundation's policies. The NSB also provides the President and Congress with Science and Engineering Indicators, a biennial report on the state of science and engineering in the United States. Members are appointed by the President for six-year terms and selected for their eminence in research, education and records of distinguished service.


Media Contacts:

Kim Silverman, National Science Board, (703) 292-4515,

Ebba Segerberg, Washington University in St. Louis, (314) 935-7309,

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) 2020, its budget is $8.3 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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