News Release

National Academies announce inaugural recipients of Eric and Wendy Schmidt Awards for Excellence in Science Communications

A total of 24 awards were announced — 12 awards for best science communication by research scientists and 12 awards for science journalists, split among six categories

Grant and Award Announcement

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

WASHINGTON — Today, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine announced the inaugural recipients of the Eric and Wendy Schmidt Awards for Excellence in Science Communication, given by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in partnership with Schmidt Futures.  Supported by Schmidt Futures, these prestigious awards recognize science journalists and research scientists who have developed creative, original work that addresses issues and advances in science, engineering, and/or medicine for the general public.

A total of 24 awards were announced — 12 awards for best science communication by research scientists and 12 awards for science journalists, split among six categories. In each of the categories, one $40,000 top prize and three $20,000 awards will be given, totaling $600,000.

The winners will be honored during a recognition event and workshop on Nov. 11 and 12 in Washington, D.C.

“Congratulations to this year’s winners, who did a superb job communicating about complex issues related to science, engineering, and health in innovative ways that capture people’s attention and imagination,” said Leah H. Jamieson, selection committee chair and Ransburg Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Dean Emerita of Engineering at Purdue University. “The quality and diversity of topics of this year’s submissions were remarkable. The works created by the winners were sometimes alarming, sometimes lyrical, sometimes provocative, often inspiring, always engaging. Our committee feels privileged to have been part of this awards program in its inaugural year. We are delighted that the recognition accorded to winners will help advance careers in science communication while informing the public about these fields that play such important roles in our lives.”

“The exemplary work that these award winners are doing to accurately and engagingly communicate about science to the public has never been more important,” said National Academy of Sciences President Marcia McNutt.  “In an often complicated, murky, and distorted information environment, these superb communicators are shining a light on critical truths, facts, and evidence that people need to make informed decisions about their lives.”

“Scientists and journalists are both seekers and sharers of knowledge, but they speak what might as well be two languages — one for academics within a particular field, the other for consumers who are inundated with news,” said Wendy Schmidt, co-founder of Schmidt Futures and president and co-founder of the Schmidt Family Foundation and Schmidt Ocean Institute. “The communicators honored with these awards not only speak both languages but also bridge them, telling stories that capture the furthest reaches of human understanding in words that are clear and relevant for all audiences.”

Chosen by the selection committee from 550 entries for works published or aired in 2021 through February 2022, the recipients are:

Science Journalist: Freelancer

Top Prize Winner:
Ben Rawlence, Black Mountains College, for

  • The Treeline: The Last Forest and the Future of Life on Earth (St. Martin’s Press USA/Vintage UK)

A superb, inspiring work that is far and away the most ambitious entry in terms of reporting, storytelling, science, and personal commitment and succeeds on all those fronts.

Brian Christian, University of California, Berkeley
Brooke Jarvis, Freelance
Emiliano Rodríguez Mega, Freelance

Science Journalist: Early Career

Top Prize Winner:
Katherine Wu of The Atlantic for

  • “COVID-19 Vaccines Are Entering Uncharted Immune Territory”
  • “The Body’s Most Embarrassing Organ Is an Evolutionary Marvel”
  • “Why No One Is Sure if Delta Is Deadlier”
  • “Your Vaccinated Immune System Is Ready for Breakthroughs”
  • “What J&J Can Still Teach Us”
  • “Will Omicron Leave Most of Us Immune?”

Wu is an outstanding example of an early career journalist who has a gift for selecting important topics, exploring them meticulously and thoughtfully and in an engaging way. Absolute powerhouse of a writer who beautifully points out how culture and biases influence science.

Ridwan Karim Dini-Osman, Freelance
Rodrigo Pérez Ortega, Science/AAAS
Alex Schwartz, Klamath Falls Herald and News

Science Journalist: Local/Regional
Top Prize Winner:
Patrick Mayoyo of Next Generation Media LTD for

  • “How Kenyan Villagers Are Using Carbon Credits and Indigenous Knowledge To Fight Climate Change Impacts” (Africa Eco News)
  •  “Climate Change and Shift in Tectonic Plates Linked to Rising Water Levels in Rift Valley Lakes,” “Tiny Village in Kenya Using Mushroom Farming To Fight Climate Change,” and “Maasai Women Defy Traditions and Opt for Nutrition To Counter Climate Change” (Daily Reporter)

Mayoyo worked hard to incorporate facts, figures, and explain clearly the science of what he was talking about whether it was fungi, carbon credits, or tectonic plates. He illustrates scientific phenomena in unique and meaningful ways by incorporating tradition and centering his work on ideas that are largely unheard of.

J.D. Allen, WSHU Public Radio
Trent Knoss, Denver Museum of Nature & Science / The Institute for Science & Policy
Brett Walton, Circle of Blue

Research Scientist: Graduate Student

Top Prize Winner:
Jessica Kendall-Bar, University of California, Santa Cruz, for

  • “Eavesdropping on the Brain at Sea: A First Glimpse at Sleep in Wild Marine Mammals,” “Visualizing Life in the Deep,” and “Data Driven Animation for Science Communication Promo” (YouTube)
  • “Ocean Sciences Meeting Coastal Resilience Lab - Data Visualization Portal” (Coastal Resilience Explorer)
  • “Hawaii’s ‘Million-Dollar Reefs’ Need More Funding To Protect Us, Study Finds” (Star Advertiser)

Kendall-Bar’s range of beautiful, relatable work utilizes impressive, innovative tools and platforms that can be used to further the cause of science communication into the future.

Arianna Long, University of California, Irvine
Alice Lu-Culligan, Yale University
Fayth Hui Tan, California Institute of Technology

Research Scientist: Early Career

Top Prize Winner:
Katelyn Jetelina, School of Public Health, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, for

  • “New Concerning Variant: B.1.1.529,” “What Now? How Pandemics End,” “State of Affairs: Pediatrics and Omicron,” “Pan-Coronavirus ‘Super’ Vaccine,” and “Go Get Your Vaccine, Especially With Omicron” (Your Local Epidemiologist, Substack)

Jetelina offers very concise and clearly written explanations from the unique (and invaluable) perspective of an early career epidemiologist [who] deals with the nuances relating to COVID infection, vaccination, and public health issues in an extremely effective way. The breadth of her influence and the importance of her work to many members of the public over the last two years reiterates the comprehensiveness and deep impact of her work.

Patience Kiyuka, Kenya Medical Research Institute
Chloe Lucas, University of Tasmania
Kristel Tjandra, Stanford University

Research Scientist: Mid-Career to Later Career

Top Prize Winner:
Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, University of New Hampshire, for

  • “Enter the Axion” (American Scientist)
  • “Becoming Martian” (The Baffler)
  • “A Black Femme Dreams in Equations” (Essence)

Prescod-Weinstein makes dark matter and astrophysics personally meaningful and fascinating for readers by blending physics and metaphysics in jaw-dropping and beautiful ways. It’s not just science, it’s also literary, it’s worldly, it’s masterful. Exceptional writing on complex topics, done in a voice aimed at marginalized audiences. Reading her writing is a joy.

Jordan Ellenberg, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Jacquelyn Gill, University of Maine
Cassandra Quave, Emory University

The National Academies’ Eric and Wendy Schmidt Awards for Excellence in Science Communications were created in this past year to increase the quality of science communication by recognizing outstanding science communication among research scientists and early career science journalists, and creating opportunities for science journalists to make connections and pursue stories at the national, regional, and local levels. For more information on the awards and the work of this year’s recipients, please visit

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The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine. The National Academies operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln.

Schmidt Futures bets early on exceptional people making the world better. Founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt, Schmidt Futures is a philanthropic initiative that brings talented people together in networks to prove out their ideas and solve hard problems in science and society. To learn more about its method and the diverse types of capital and tools it deploys, visit


Olivia Hamilton, Communications Specialist
Awards for Excellence in Science Communication
202-334-2138; e-mail

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