Since 1886, the National Academy of Sciences has honored outstanding achievement in the physical, biological, and social sciences through its awards program.


  • New Award: NAS Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences
    Established by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, this new $100,000 prize will recognize research by a mid-career scientist at a U.S. institution who has made an extraordinary contribution to agriculture or to the understanding of the biology of a species fundamentally important to agriculture or food production.  Read More  

  • 2016 Awards presented on Sunday, May 1 - Video now available!
    The recipients of the 2016 NAS Awards will be honored at a ceremony on Sunday, May 1, at 2:00 p.m., during the Academy’s 153rd annual meeting. The ceremony will also include the presentation of the Academy’s Public Welfare Medal to Alan Alda. Watch the video  

Featured Award

NAS Award in Molecular Biology

This annual prize recognizes recent notable discovery in molecular biology by a young scientist.

Over the past 50 years the NAS Award in Molecular Biology has continued to recognize many outstanding young biologists and has been a been a precursor to numerous National Medals of Science and Lasker Awards, and fourteen Nobel Prizes (Nirenberg 1968; Holley 1968; Temin 1975; Baltimore 1975; Nathans 1978; Gilbert 1980; Cech 1989; Sharp 1993; Blobel 1999; Horvitz 2002; Fire 2006; Mello 2006; Blackburn 2009; Szostak 2009). The most recent winner, Dianne K. Newman, was named a 2016 MacArthur Foundation Fellow.

Dianne Newman

Dianne K. Newman, Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and professor of biology and geobiology at the California Institute of Technology, received the 2016 NAS Award in Molecular Biology.

Newman combined her expertise in microbial genetics and microbial biology with her knowledge of geology and mineralization processes in the development of a field of science called geomicrobiology. This area of science, as Newman has shown, is key to understanding the evolution of our planet; she has helped raise awareness that geomicrobiology is also directly relevant to significant global problems, such as climate change and the development of renewable energy. Newman provided a compelling clue that microbes are major players in geologic processes, discovering an important molecular mechanism underpinning how bacteria in iron-rich environments make extracellular iron available for use by other organisms. She also elucidated the genetic basis of bacterial respiration of arsenate and developed a method for quickly and accurately identifying these bacteria. The technique is currently used in surveying contaminated water in California, Chile, Brazil, and Southeast Asia. Newman’s work has revolutionized this area of science, and her techniques and methods are now widely used by other researchers in this field.

Formerly called the “U.S. Steel Award in Molecular Biology,” after its original sponsor, the NAS Award in Molecular Biology award was renamed in 1989 after the Monsanto Company assumed sponsorship of this prize. Today the NAS Award in Molecular Biology is generously supported by Pfizer, Inc. The award is presented with a gold-plated bronze medal and a $25,000 prize.

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