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Alan T. Waterman Award

Call for Nominations

The National Science Foundation is now accepting nominations for the 2018 Alan T. Waterman Award. The deadline for submissions is October 23, 2017. Review eligibility and selection criteria below and submit nominations through FastLane.

View the "Call for Nominations" flyer (PDF-336 kb).

NSF Announces Changes to Eligibility Requirements

Scientists 40 years of age or younger, or up to 10 years post Ph.D., may now be nominated for the Alan T. Waterman Award. For more information, please see the press release.

2017 Alan T. Waterman Awardees

This year the National Science Foundation is pleased to announce two recipients of the Alan T. Waterman Award:

Baratunde A. Cola
Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology

Dr. Cola pioneered new engineering methods and materials to control light and heat in electronics at the nanoscale. His team was the first to overcome more than 40 years of research challenges to create a device called an optical rectenna, which turns light into direct current more efficiently than today's technology. This device could lead to highly efficient solar cells with the potential to power new generations of cell phones, laptops, satellites and drones. The research would potentially double solar cell efficiency at one-tenth of the cost, according to Cola, who wishes to bring transformational applications of carbon nanotubes to the market.

Additionally, Cola and his colleagues were responsible for engineering breakthroughs, including the first thermally conductive amorphous polymer, the first practical electrochemical cell for generating electricity from waste heat, and the first evidence of thermal energy conduction by surface polaritons.

John V. Pardon
Professor of Mathematics, Princeton University

Dr. Pardon's research focuses on geometry and topology. He is known for solving problems that stumped other mathematicians for decades and generating solutions that provide new tools for geometric analysis. As a senior undergraduate at Princeton University, Pardon answered a question posed in 1983 by Russian mathematician Mikhail Gromov regarding "knots," mathematical structures that resemble physical knots, but are closed, versus having many ends. He figured out a way to use the distortion between two properties of knots-their intrinsic and extrinsic distances-to control their topology.

In 2013, he published a solution to the Hilbert-Smith conjecture, a mathematical proposition involving the actions of groups of "manifolds" in three dimensions. This publication was notable for proving this longstanding conjecture, a major achievement in mathematics. Pardon's solution has important applications in fluid dynamics and electrodynamics, calculating forces involved in aircraft movement, predicting weather patterns, determining the flow of liquids through water treatment plant pipelines, determining the flow of electrical charges, and more.

For more information, please see the press release.


Congress established the Alan T. Waterman Award in August 1975 to mark the 25th Anniversary of the National Science Foundation and to honor its first Director. The annual award recognizes an outstanding young researcher in any field of science or engineering supported by the National Science Foundation. In addition to a medal, the awardee receives a grant of $1,000,000 over a five year period for scientific research or advanced study in the mathematical, physical, biological, engineering, social, or other sciences at the institution of the recipient's choice.

For more information, please see the Waterman Award fact sheet, prepared by the NSF Office of Legislative and Public Affairs.

Eligibility and Selection Criteria

  • A candidate must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. He or she must be 40 years of age or younger, OR not more than 10 years beyond receipt of the Ph.D. degree, by December 31st of the year in which they are nominated (new).

  • A candidate should have demonstrated exceptional individual achievement in scientific or engineering research of sufficient quality, originality, innovation, and significant impact on the field so as to situate him or her as a leader among peers.

Nomination Requirements

  • Nomination packages consist of a nomination and four letters of reference submitted via FastLane NOTE: Reference letters should not exceed two pages.

  • The names of four references are required for each nomination. The references cannot come from the nominee’s home institution. References must be requested by the nominator and submitted by the established FastLane deadline.

  • Nominations will not be reviewed by the Committee unless all the requirements are met.

  • Institutions may nominate an unlimited number of individuals.


Please see the Frequently Asked Questions page for specific questions about the award criteria or the nomination process.

For any other questions, or for additional information, please send e-mail to or call the NSF Office of Integrative Activities at 703-292-8040.