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Alan T. Waterman Award

Call for Nominations

The National Science Foundation is no longer accepting nominations for the 2020 Alan T. Waterman Award. Information on the 2021 call for nominations will be available during summer 2020.

2019 Alan T. Waterman Awardees

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has named two awardees for its prestigious Alan T. Waterman Award; Jennifer A. Dionne, Stanford University Associate Professor of Materials Science and Mark Braverman, Princeton University Professor of Computer Science. The Waterman Award Committee, an external panel of distinguished scientists and engineers, chaired by John Carlstrom, University of Chicago, recommended Drs. Dionne and Braverman from a large group of highly qualified early career nominees representing all disciplines.

"This year's recipients are innovative and enthusiastic early career scientists who are truly exceptional researchers," NSF Director France A. Córdova said. "Jennifer Dionne is addressing some of the most important challenges in nanoscience and is already making enormous impact in fields from infectious disease to renewable energy. Mark Braverman's research is devoted to developing algorithms and designs that can withstand the effects of ubiquitous noise present in all learning and computational tasks. These awardees are scientific trailblazers, whose approach to research is thoughtful, creative and cross-cutting, inspiring others to explore new frontiers."

Jennifer A. Dionne
Associate Professor of Materials Science, Stanford University

Dr. Dionne is developing techniques and tools to image dynamic physical, chemical and biological processes with extremely high resolution. Her research is enabling new knowledge to help solve global challenges in biomedicine, energy and computing. Dionne pioneered the development of new environmental transmission electron spectroscopies that allow direct imaging of chemical reactions with sub-nanometer-scale spatial resolution in real-time; helping to identify nanostructures for energy conversion and storage with the highest efficiency. She has also devised techniques to incorporate light excitation and detection into the transmission electron microscope, enabling deeply sub-wavelength dynamic optical imaging. This work has resulted in major research advances for photocatalysis and bioimaging, and also provides a new, one-of-a-kind shared facility available to the international community. Thanks to Dionne's imaging advances, there may soon be a way to detect and identify a single bacterium in a milliliter of blood -- an ability with profound implications for infectious disease detection.

Dr. Dionne also received an NSF CAREER award in 2012 to develop metamaterials that give a "twist" to light-matter interactions, enabling detection and sorting of chiral molecules. Additionally, she received the Materials Research Society Young Investigator Award for noteworthy contributions to nanophotonics and a Presidential Early Career Award, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding scientists and engineers in the early stages of their careers.

Mark Braverman
Professor of Computer Science, Princeton University

Dr. Braverman's research focuses on complexity, including looking at algorithms for optimization, which, when applied, might mean planning a route -- how to get from point A to point B in the most efficient way possible. He examines randomness in the motion of objects, down to the erratic movement of particles in a fluid. Braverman's work is also tied to algorithms required for learning, which serve as building blocks to artificial intelligence, and has even had implications for the foundations of quantum computing. His work includes mechanism design with applications in health care. His multidisciplinary approach is developing algorithms to address issues such as a new way to match medical residents to U.S. hospitals, and ways to implement new incentive structures in health insurance.

Dr. Braverman has solved two puzzles that eluded researchers for decades: the Grothendieck constant and the Linial-Nisan conjecture. The results earned him several accolades in his field, including the 2016 Presburger Award, the 2014 Stephen Smale Prize, a 2013 Packard fellowship, and now the Waterman Award. Like Dionne, Braverman also received an NSF CAREER award in 2012.

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.

  • 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 additional information, e-mail or call the NSF Office of Integrative Activities at 703-292-8040.