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Alan T. Waterman Award Recipients,
1976 - present

2020 |2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010
2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000
1999 | 1998 | 1997 | 1996 | 1995 | 1994 | 1993 | 1992 | 1991 | 1990
1989 | 1988 | 1987 | 1986 | 1985 | 1984 | 1983 | 1982 | 1981 | 1980
1979 | 1978 | 1977 | 1976

Note: Institutions listed are those with which the recipients were affiliated at the time of the Award.


Photo of Emily Balskus

Emily Balskus

Chemist, Harvard University

"For harnessing chemistry to transform the study of microbes and microbial communities, enabling her discoveries of the impact of microbiome metabolism on host function, and her deployment of the unique chemical arsenals produced by microorganisms to produce new molecules that will enhance the quality of life and support the bioeconomy."


Photo of John Dabiri

John Dabiri

Aeronautical Engineer, California Institute of Technology

"For seminal contributions to fluid mechanics and innovative applications thereof, including development of biology-inspired wind energy concepts, discovery of unexpected fluid dynamic connections between animal locomotion and human cardiac function, and groundbreaking studies of biological fluid mechanics in the ocean."

View a video of the 2020 Alan T. Waterman Recipients

Recipients of the NSF Alan T. Waterman Award



Mark Braverman

Professor of Computer Science, Princeton University, with NSF Director France Córdova

"For his manifold contributions to theoretical computer science and mathematics, including development of information complexity and applications ranging from direct sum conjecture to quantum communication; his proof of the Linial-Nisan conjecture; and major advances in computational properties of dynamical systems."


Jennifer A. Dionne

Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Stanford University, with NSF Director France Córdova

"For development of new materials and methods that enable real-time imaging of dynamic processes in-situ and in-vivo at the nanometer scale, and for ingenious application of these tools to analyze photocatalytic reactions, probe intercellular interactions, control the synthesis of chiral molecules, and detect bacteria at low concentrations."



2018 Alan T. Waterman awardee Kristina Olson with NSF Director France Córdova

Kristina Olson

Associate Professor of Psychology, University of Washington, with NSF Director France Córdova

"For pioneering contributions to the understanding of children's attitudes toward and identification with social groups, early prosocial behavior, the development of notions of fairness, morality, and inequality, and the emergence of social biases."



2017 Waterman Award winner Baratunde Cola, with NSF Director France Córdova

Baratunde A. Cola

Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, with NSF Director France Córdova

"For significant contributions in the field of innovative materials and transport phenomena through carbon nanotube arrays to include the first optical rectenna, 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."


2017 Waterman Award winner John Pardon, with NSF Director France Córdova

John V. Pardon

Professor of Mathematics, Princeton University, with NSF Director France Córdova

"For revolutionary, groundbreaking results in geometry and topology, including his resolution of the Hilbert--Smith conjecture in 3-manifold topology and his program for constructing virtual fundamental cycles on the moduli spaces of pseudo-holomorphic curves. His leadership and contributions have brought new insights to these central fields of mathematics, and have extended the power of tools of geometric analysis to solve deep problems in real and complex geometry, topology, and dynamical systems."



2016 Waterman Award winner Mircea Dincă, with NSF Director France Córdova

Mircea Dincă

Associate Professor of Chemistry, MIT, with NSF Director France Córdova

"For pioneering contributions to the synthesis and understanding of molecular porous solids with unusual electronic properties, especially for creative synthetic design leading to microporous materials with high electrical conductivity and redox activity."



2015 Waterman Award winner Andrea Alù with NSB Member Vint Cerf and NSF Director France Córdova

Andrea Alù

Associate Professor and David & Doris Lybarger Endowed Faculty Fellow in Engineering, Univ. of Texas at Austin (center), with National Science Board Member Vint Cerf (left), and NSF Director France Córdova

"For his work in metamaterial theory and design, including insightful contributions to plasmonic cloaking; effective light manipulation at the nano scale; innovative ideas in breaking time reversal symmetry leading to enhanced non-reciprocity from acoustics to microwaves and optics; and for unique contributions to metamaterials."



2014 Waterman Award winner Feng Zhang with NSF Director France Córdova

Feng Zhang

Core Member, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard Univ., and France Córdova, NSF Director

"For development and application of molecular technologies that enable systematic interrogation of intact biological systems through precise genomic manipulation."



2013 Waterman Award winner Mung Chiang with NSF Acting Director Cora Marrett

Mung Chiang

Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Electrical Engineering Department at Princeton University, and Cora Marrett, NSF Acting Director

"For fundamental contributions to the analysis, design, and performance optimization of wireless networks."



2012 Waterman Award winner Scott Aaronson with NSF Director Subra Suresh

Scott J. Aaronson

TIBCO Career Development Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT, and Subra Suresh, NSF Director

"For numerous fundamental contributions to quantum computing and theoretical computer science and for popularization of quantum information science. "


2012 Waterman Award winner Robert Wood with NSF Director Subra Suresh

Robert J. Wood

Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at Harvard University, and Subra Suresh, NSF Director

"For his development of multi-scale, multi-material fabrication methods for automated monolithic assembly of high performance, innovative robots, and for his outreach efforts to make science and engineering accessible to all."


2011 Waterman Award winner Casey W. Dunn with NSF Director Subra Suresh

Casey W. Dunn

Manning Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Brown University, and Subra Suresh, NSF Director

"For his gifted integration of field biology, genomics, and computational science that has led to changing our understanding of the evolutionary tree, integrating morphological and molecular perspectives on diversity, and developing new tools that are revolutionizing biology."



2010 Waterman Award winner Subhash Khot with NSF Director Arden L. Bement, Jr.

Subhash A. Khot

Associate Professor of Computer Science, Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University, and Arden L. Bement, Jr., NSF Director

"For unexpected and original contributions to computational complexity, notably the Unique Games Conjecture, and the resulting rich connections and consequences in optimization, computer science and mathematics."



2009 Waterman Award winner David Charbonneau with NSF Director Arden L. Bement, Jr.

David Charbonneau

Thomas D. Cabot Associate Professor of Astronomy, Harvard University, and Arden L. Bement, Jr., NSF Director

"For his pioneering research into the discovery and characterization of planets orbiting other stars, which has allowed, for the first time, the study of their surface conditions and atmospheres, and has revolutionized interdisciplinary research related to exoplanets."



Photo of Terance Tao, 2008 Waterman Award winner

Terence Tao

Professor of Mathematics, University of California, Los Angeles and Arden L. Bement, Jr., NSF Director

“For his surprising and original contributions to many fields of mathematics, including number theory, differential equations, algebra, and harmonic analysis”



Photo of Peidong Yang, 2007 Waterman Award winner

Peidong Yang

Associate Professor of Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley and Arden L. Bement, Jr., NSF Director

“For outstanding contributions in the creative synthesis of semiconductor nanowires and their heterostructures, and innovations in nanowire-based photonics, energy conversion, and nanofluidic applications.”



Photo of Emmanuel Candes, 2006 Waterman Award winner

Emmanuel Candes

Professor of Applied and Computational Mathematics, California Institute of Technology, and Arden L. Bement, Jr., NSF Director

“For his research in computational mathematics and statistical estimation, with applications to signal compression and image processing.”



Photo of Dalton Conley, 2005 Waterman award winner, with NSF Director Arden Bement

Dalton Conley

Professor of Sociology and Public Policy and Director, Center for Advanced Social Sciences Research, New York University and
Arden L. Bement, Jr., NSF Director

“For his contribution to the field of sociology as a research scientist and published author exemplified by his research on how socio-economic status is transmitted across generations. He brings methodological rigor and sophistication to deep social questions.”




Photo of Kristi Anseth, 2004 Waterman award winner, with NSF Director Arden Bement

Kristi Anseth

Tisone Professor and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Assistant Investigator
Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
University of Colorado, Boulder and
Arden Bement,
NSF Acting Director

"For her research at the interface of biology and engineering, resulting in the design of innovative biomaterials that significantly facilitate tissue engineering and regeneration."



Photo of Angelika Amon, 2003 Waterman award winner, with NSF Director Rita Colwell

Angelika Amon

Associate Professor of Biology and Assistant Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Center for Cancer Research , Massachusetts Institute of Technology
and Rita Colwell, NSF Director

"For her seminal contributions to understanding how cells orchestrate the segregation of their chromosomes during cell division, the key process of life "



Photo of Erich D. Jarvis, 2002 Waterman award winner, with NSF Director Rita Colwell

Erich D. Jarvis

Associate Professor
Department of Neurobiology
Duke University Medical Center and
Rita Colwell, NSF Director

"For his use of gene expression as a tool to map brain fuctional systems and to identify parts of the brain involved in perceiving, learning and producing vocal communication"



Photo of Vahid Tarokh, 2001 Waterman award winner, with NSF Director Rita Colwell

Vahid Tarokh

Associate Professor
Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science Massachusetts Institute of Technology
and Rita Colwell, NSF Director

"For the invention of space-time coding techniques that produce dramatic gains in the spectral efficiency of wireless digital communication systems." 



Photo of Jennifer A. Doudna, 2000 Waterman award winner, with NSF Director Rita Colwell

Jennifer A. Doudna

Professor, Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University and Assistant Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
and Rita Colwell, NSF Director

"For innovative research that led to the development of a technique that facilitates crystallization of large RNA molecules; for determining the crystal structures of catalytic RNA molecules and an RNA molecule that forms the ribonucleoproteincore of the signalr econgition particle; and for deciphering structural features of those molecules that permit a greater understanding of the mechanistic basis of RNA function in both catalysis and protein synthesis."


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Photo of Chaitan S. Khosla, 1999 Waterman award winner, with NSF Director Rita Colwell

Chaitan S. Khosla

Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering,
Chemistry, and Biochemistry, Stanford University and
Rita Colwell, NSF Director

"For his outstanding work in elucidating the mechanisms of enzyme biocatalysis of polyketides, thereby opening an exciting potential route to new drug discovery."


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Photo of Christopher C. Cummins, 1998 Waterman award winner, with NSF Director Neal Lane

Dr. Christopher C. Cummins

Department of Chemistry,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology and
Neal Lane, NSF Director

"For innovative research in transition-metal activation of small molecules, including the discovery of reactions to cleave nitrogen-nitrogen multiple bonds under mild conditions. His revolutionary approach to chemical reactivity has answered key questions and furthered development in catalyst design and nitrogen fixation."


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Photo of Eric Cornell, 1997 Waterman award winner

Dr. Eric Cornell

Department of Physics University of Colorado at Boulder and Fellow, National Institute of Standards and Technology

"For his leading role in the creation of Bose-Einstein condensation in a gas, and for innovations in the manipulation, trapping and cooling of atoms that led to the realization of this new state of matter."


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Photo of Robert M. Waymouth, 1996 Waterman award winner, with NSF Director Neal Lane

Dr. Robert M. Waymouth

Department of Chemistry, Stanford University
and Neal Lane, NSF Director

"For his seminal contributions to the design of well-defined organometallic catalysts for the synthesis of novel polymers, including chiral cyclopolymers and stereoblock polyolefins. The development of catalysts which change their structure as they work has established a new paradigm in the synthesis of block-polymers."


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Photo of Matthew P.A. Fisher, 1995 Waterman award winner, with NSF Director Neal Lane

Dr. Matthew P. A. Fisher

Institute for Theoretical Physics University of California-Santa Barbara
and Neal Lane, NSF Director

"For his broad and original contributions to the theory of the quantum dymanics of macroscopic systems and quantum phase transitions, specifically his prediction of a vortex glass phase in high temperature superconductors, his studies of the superconductor-insulator transition and is seminal work on quantum transport in Luttinger liquids."


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 Photo of Gang Tian, 1994 Waterman award winner, with NSF Director Neal Lane

Dr. Gang Tian

Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences
New York University
and Neal Lane, NSF Director

"For his deep understanding and penetrating insights in the field of complex differential geometry, including his solution of the problem of existence of Kahler-Einstein metrics on complex surfaces, his proof that the moduli space for Kahler-Einstein metrics with zero first Chern class is nonsingular, and his proof of the stability of algebraic manifolds by using differential geometric methods."


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Dr. Deborah L. Penry

Department of Integrative Biology
University of California, Berkeley

"For her innovative applications of chemical engineering principles and chemical-reactor theory in analysis of the process of digestion in marine invertebrates, filling an important gap in existing ecological theory dealing with animals strategies for acquiring energy and nutrients. Her research is important to understanding the cycling of materials in the sea--in particular the global carbon cycle and global climate change cycles."


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Dr. Shrinivas R. Kulkarni

Radio Astronomy
California Institute of Technology

"For his major contributions to the understanding of diffuse interstellar medium and the physics and evolution of neutron star pulsars and x-ray binary stars. For his leading role in the discovery of fast pulsars, a major new phenomenon, and in the development of optical and radio spatial interferometry."


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Dr. Herbert Edelsbrunner

Professor of Computer Science
Department of Computer Science
University of Illinois at

"For his pioneering research in computational geometry through which he has made fundamental contributions to the theory of computer science and to discrete mathematics. His work has solved open problems, built rich theoretical structures, developed algorithmic paradigms, produced robust implementations of geometric algorithms, and brought computational geometry in close touch with application areas in computer technology."


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Dr. Mark E. Davis

Professor of Chemical Engineering
Virginia Polytechnic Institute
& State University

"For his pioneering work in catalytic materials, catalysis, and reaction engineering, including the first synthesis of a molecular sieve with pores larger than 1 nanometer and the invention of supported aqueous-phase catalysts; each of these accomplishments opens up a new and potentially important area in catalytic science and technology, and also has implications for separations technology and environmental control."


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Dr. Richard H. Scheller

Associate Professor of Biological Sciences
Stanford University

"For his work leading to the development of recombinant DNA technologies, and for his current research which has illuminated cellular and molecular mechanisms used to regulate animal behavior. These basic studies will lead to a better understanding of the molecular basis of brain function and should, in the future, help in the understanding of major psychiatric illnesses."


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Dr. Peter G. Schultz

Professor of Chemistry
University of California, Berkeley

"For innovative research at the interface of chemistry and biology, both in the development of new approaches for the study of molecular recognition and catalysis and in the application of these studies to the design of selective biological catalysts."


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Dr. Lawrence H. Summers

Professor of Economics
Harvard University

"For outstanding contributions to economic research on unemployment, taxation of capital, savings behavior and macroeconomic activity. His work combines powerful analytic insights and imaginative econometric methods aimed at subjects of fundamental National importance."


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Dr. Edward Witten

Professor of Physics
Princeton University

"For path-opening contributions to the physics of elementary particles and gravity, to the search unification, and to the imaginative pursuit of the implications for cosmology."

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Dr. Jacqueline K. Barton

Professor of Chemistry
Columbia University

"For her imaginative and significant work in bioinorganic chemistry. Her use of small inorganic molecules to recognize and modify DNA sites in very specific ways has led to two major discoveries--enantiomeric selectivity in binding t DNA helices of different handedness, and Z-DNA "punctuation" at the end of genes--with important implications for drug design and for the theory of gene expression."


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Dr. Harvey M. Friedman

Professor of Mathematics
Ohio State University

"For his revitalization of the foundations of mathematics, his penetrating investigations into the Godel incompleteness phenomena, and his fundamental contributions to virtually all areas of mathematical loqic."


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Dr. Corey S. Goodman

Associate Professor of Biology
Stanford University

"For his contributions to our understanding of the development of the nervous system. His imaginative choice of model systems and modern technologies are enabling him to discover how individual nerve cells acquire their unique identities and interact with the appropriate cells during embryogenesis."


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Dr. Richard Axel

Institute of Cancer Research
Columbia University

"For devising a novel procedure for introducing virtually any gene into mammalian cells. Gene transfer now permits the analysis of the mechanisms regulating the expression of genes in an appropriate cellular environment. This information is prerequisite to a rational approach towards gene therapy."


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Dr. W. Clark Still

Associate Professor of Chemistry
Columbia University

"For showing that fundamental conformational principles can be used in organic synthesis to describe nonrigid molecular arrays and for the design of chemical reactions which use such arrays to control the three-dimensional structure of flexible molecules."


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Dr. Roy F. Schwitters

Professor of Physics
Harvard University

"For his contributions to the understanding of the basic structure of matter through experiments that discovered and explored an entirely new collection of subatomic particles. The experiments led to the interpretation of the new particles as being composed of simpler constituents, possessing a new property of matter."


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Dr. William P. Thurston

Professor of Mathematics
Princeton University

"In recognition of his achievements in introducing revolutionary new geometrical methods in the theory of foliations, function theory and topology."


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Dr. Richard A. Muller

Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and Space Sciences Laboratory
University of California, Berkeley

"For his original and innovative research, which has led to important discoveries and inventions in diverse areas of physics, including astrophysics, radioisotope dating and optics."


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Dr. J. William Schopf

Professor of Paleobiology
University of California, Los Angeles

"For his outstanding research on Precambrian biotas. His work on these delicate and ancient fossil microorganisms will contribute significantly to the knowledge of the origin of life and the evolution of the earliest known biotas of the world."


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Dr. Charles L. Fefferman

Professor of Mathematics
Princeton University

"For his research in Fourier analysis, partial differential equations and several complex variables which have brought fresh insight and renewed vigor to classical areas of mathematics and contributed signally to the advancement of modern mathematical analysis."


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For further information concerning the Waterman Award program or nomination process, e-mail or contact the NSF Office of Integrative Activities at 703-292-8040.