Public Release: 

NSF honors Yale biochemist Jennifer Doudna with the Alan T. Waterman Award

National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has chosen a Yale University associate professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry to receive its most prestigious prize for young researchers.

Jennifer A. Doudna will be honored with the 2000 Alan T. Waterman Award at a National Science Board awards ceremony on May 3 in Washington, D.C. She is only the third woman to be so honored, and is the 25th recipient of the award since its inception in 1976.

Doudna's leading work in structural biology provided an answer to how RNA can act like an enzyme to catalyze specific biochemical reactions, and how polyanionic RNA forms a three-dimensional structure.

"There can be no question that her pioneering accomplishments have changed the way the scientific community thinks about RNA molecules," says Joan Steitz, professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale University. "Such exceptional achievements are precisely what the Waterman Award was created to recognize."

According to University of California at Berkeley professor of chemistry Ignacio Tinoco, Doudna's analysis has inaugurated a new era in RNA structure and function.

Doudna earned a B.A. in chemistry from Pomona College in Claremont, California, in 1985, and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Harvard University in 1989.

Her previous honors include the Johnson Foundation Prize for Innovative Research (1996), the Beckman Young Investigator Award (1996), the David and Lucille Packard Foundation Fellow Award (1996), the Lucille P. Markey Scholar Award in Biomedical Science (1991), and the National Research Service Award in Biomedical Science (1986).

The Alan T. Waterman Award, named after the NSF's first director, honors an outstanding young U.S. scientist who is at the forefront of science or engineering. The recipient receives a medal as well as a $500,000 grant over three years for scientific research or advanced study in any field of science or engineering.

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Attachment: Fact Sheet on Waterman Award.

NSF is an independent federal agency which supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of about $4 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states, through grants to about 1,600 universities and institutions nationwide. Each year, NSF receives about 30,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 10,000 new funding awards.

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