The National Medal of Science

Call for nominations

The nomination period for 2022 is now closed.

Overview

Established in 1959 by the U.S. Congress, the National Medal of Science is the highest recognition the nation can bestow on scientists and engineers. The presidential award is given to individuals deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to knowledge in the physical, biological, mathematical, engineering, or social and behavioral sciences, in service to the Nation. These broad areas include such disciplines as astronomy, chemistry, computer and information science and engineering, geoscience, materials research, and research on STEM education.

A committee of distinguished scientists and engineers is appointed by the president of the United States to evaluate the nominees for the award. Medals are presented to recipients by the president during an awards ceremony at the White House.

Since its establishment, the National Medal of Science has been awarded to 506 distinguished scientists and engineers whose careers span decades of research and development. View the National Medal of Science recipients from 1962 to the present.

History of the medal


Credit: Official White House Photo; courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
President Kennedy bestows the first National Medal of Science to Dr. Theodore von Karman
Credit: Courtesy of the Barbara McClintock Papers, American Philosophical Society
Dr. Barbara McClintock was the first female scientist to receive the Alan T. Waterman award.
  • 1959: The National Medal of Science is established by an act of the U.S. Congress under Public Law 86-209.

  • 1961: The Committee on the National Medal of Science is established by executive order 10961 of President John F. Kennedy.

  • 1963: The first National Medal of Science is awarded, for the year 1962, by President John F. Kennedy to Theodore von Kármán for his work at the Caltech Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The citation accompanying von Kármán's award reads: "For his leadership in the science and engineering basic to aeronautics; for his effective teaching and related contributions in many fields of mechanics, for his distinguished counsel to the Armed Services, and for his promoting international cooperation in science and engineering."

  • 1970: The first woman receives a National Medal of Science. The recipient, Barbara McClintock, is recognized for her work on plant genetics.

  • 1979–1980: The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) passes a resolution proposing that the medal be expanded to include the social and behavioral sciences. Senator Edward M. Kennedy introduces the "Science and Technology Equal Opportunities Act" into the Senate to expand the medal to include these areas of science. President Jimmy Carter's signature enacts this change as Public Law 96-516.

  • 1992: The U.S. National Science Foundation signs a letter of agreement with the National Science and Technology Medals Foundation that makes the National Science and Technology Medals Foundation the meta-organization over both the National Medal of Science and the similar National Medal of Technology and Innovation.

Nomination and review process


Each year, NSF sends out a call to the scientific community for the nomination of new candidates for the National Medal of Science. Individuals are nominated by their peers, with each nomination requiring three letters of support from individuals working in science and technology.

Nominees must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are applying for U.S. citizenship, who have done work of significantly outstanding merit or have had a major impact on scientific thought in their field.

Once received, nominations are sent to the President's Committee on the National Medal of Science, which is a board composed of 16 presidential appointees comprising 14 scientists and engineers and two ex officio members: the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the president of the National Academy of Sciences.

In addition to the criteria above, the committee also seeks nominations of individuals who promote the general advancement of science and individuals who have influenced science education.

The drop down items below will help you with the nomination process.

The National Medal of Science is awarded individuals deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding cumulative contributions to knowledge in the physical, biological, mathematical, engineering, or behavioral or social sciences. These broad areas include astronomy, chemistry, computer and information science and engineering, geoscience, materials research, and research on STEM education.

Please note the following eligibility guidelines:

  • Only individuals are eligible for a National Medal of Science.

  • You cannot nominate yourself or an immediate family member.

  • Nominees must be a U.S. citizen or national, or a permanent resident who is applying for U.S. citizenship.

  • Deceased nominees are eligible for the award until the fifth anniversary of the day of their death.

  • Nobel Prize winners are eligible for awards and are evaluated according to the same considerations as nominees who have not received a Nobel Prize.

Nominations will be carried over for a period of three years, including the year of nomination. After that time, it is possible to re-nominate an individual for consideration, if they are still eligible.

Nominations must be submitted electronically.

A complete nomination consists of:

  1. Complete nomination forms, submitted by the nominator.

  2. Three to five letters of reference, submitted by letter writers. Three of the reference writers must not be from the nominee’s home institution for the nomination to be considered.

Nominations and letters must be submitted via the NSF honorary awards portal. A link to the honorary awards portal will be made available when the nomination period is open. A description of the nomination form and letter of reference template will also be made available.

The President's Committee on the National Medal of Science has established the following considerations for selection of candidates:

  1. The impact of the nominee's body of work on the current state of his or her field of science or engineering.

  2. Whether the nominee's achievements are of an unusually significant nature in relation to the potential effects on the development of thought in his or her field of science or engineering.

  3. Whether the nominee has demonstrated unusually distinguished service in the general advancement of science or engineering for the nation, especially when accompanied by substantial contributions to the content of science.

  4. The recognition of the nominee by peers within their community, and whether they are recognized for substantial impact in fields in addition to their discipline.

  5. Whether the nominee has made contributions to innovation and industry.

  6. Whether the nominee has demonstrated sustained influence on education through publications, teaching activities, outreach, mentoring, or other activities.

  7. Whether the nominee's contributions have had a significant positive impact on the nation.

Terms Expire December 31, 2022

  • Joan Elise Ferrini-Mundy
    President
    University of Maine
    Biography
     
  • Robert Mckinley Sellers
    Vice Provost for Equity & Inclusion
    Chief Diversity Officer
    Charles D. Moody Collegiate Professor of Psychology and Professor of Education
    University of Michigan

    Biography
     
  • Cherese Winstead Casson
    Associate Professor, Chair
    Chemistry
    College of Agriculture Science and Technology
    Delaware State University
    Biography

Terms Expire December 31, 2023

  • Rafael L. Bras
    K. Harrison Brown Family Chair and Professor
    Water Resources Engineering
    School of Civil and Environmental Engineering
    Georgia Institute of Technology
    Biography
     
  • Erika Gabriela Gonzalez
    CEO and President
    South Texas Allergy & Asthma Medical Professionals (STAAMP) and STAAMP Clinical Research
    Biography
     
  • Juan Maldacena
    Carl P. Feinberg Professor
    School of Natural Sciences
    Institute of Advanced Study
    Biography
     
  • Cora Marrett, Chair of the Committee
    Member, Board of Visitors
    Professor Emerita
    Department of Sociology
    University of Wisconsin
    Biography
     

Terms Expire December 31, 2024

  • May R. Berenbaum
    Professor and Head – Entomology
    Professor – Plant Biology
    Swanlund Chair
    University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
    Biography
     
  • Craig Partridge
    Chair, Department of Computer Science
    College of Natural Resources
    Colorado State University
    Biography
     
  • Padmasani Raghavan
    Vice Provost for Research
    Professor of Computer Science and Computer Engineering
    Vanderbilt University
    Biography
     
  • Valerie Montgomery Rice
    President and CEO
    Morehouse School of Medicine
    Biography

Medal design


Credit: National Science Foundation
The front and back designs of the National Medal of Science

The National Medal of Science depicts a human figure, surrounded by Earth, sea and sky, contemplating and seeking to understand nature. The crystal in the figure's hand symbolizes the universal order and also suggests the basic unit of living things. The formula the figure is sketching in the sand symbolizes scientific abstraction.

The gold medal was sculpted by the prolific medalic artist, Donald DeLue, who also made sculptures for Omaha Beach on the Normandy coast of France, as well as the Boy Scout Memorial Tribute in Washington, D.C. DeLue's sculpture for the medal was based on a design by Richard H. Bolt, an associate director for planning at NSF, who had a background in fine arts. The design was approved by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in Executive Order 10910, signed on Jan. 17, 1961.

Frequently asked questions


Ideal nominations demonstrate that the individual is deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding cumulative contributions to knowledge in the physical, biological, mathematical, engineering, or behavioral or social sciences, in service to the nation. These broad areas include such disciplines as astronomy, chemistry, computer and information science and engineering, geoscience, materials research, and research on STEM education.

Nominations are evaluated by a committee of distinguished scientists and engineers appointed by the president. The committee is composed of 14 appointed members and two ex officio members. The ex officio members are the director of the Office Science and Technology Policy and the president of the National Academy of Sciences.

With a few exceptions, anyone can submit a nomination, including individuals from the nominee's home institution. People may not nominate themselves, nor may nominations come from immediate family members. Current NSF staff should not submit nominations.

The nomination is an opportunity to craft a compelling vision and story for the nominee; it is generally recommended that the nominator be someone who is very knowledgeable about the nominee's work.

You may nominate someone without their knowledge; however, it might be beneficial for the nominee to be involved in the process — their input may provide useful insights for crafting a compelling nomination.

Three letters of support from individuals at organizations other than the nominee's home institution are required for a nomination to be considered. A total of five letters of support may be submitted for a nomination. Each letter of support is limited to two pages.

You can make as many nominations as you like — of the same person or different people.

Nominations are eligible for three years — the year it a nomination is submitted and the following two years.

The most recent laureates for the National Medal of Science were announced in 2015 and honored at a ceremony at the White House in 2016. NSF and the current administration are working to address the backlog of nominations. We will post new information when we have it.

After committee review, the president makes the final decision on who will be awarded the National Medal of Science, and the White House makes the announcement. Currently, there is no set date for making an announcement.

Videos of past laureates


2013 and 2014

 President Obama Presents the 2013/2014 National Medal of Science Awards

 2013 Laureate - Geraldine Richmond

 2013 Laureate - Rakesh Jain

 2013 Laureate - Michael Artin

 2014 Laureate - Mary-Claire King

 2014 Laureate - Simon A. Levin

 2014 Laureate -  Albert Bandura

 2014 Laureate - Stanley Falkow

 2014 Laureate - Shirley Jackson

 2014 Laureate - Armand P. Alivisatos

2010

 President Obama Presents the 2010 National Medal of Science Awards

 2010 Laureate - Jacqueline Barton

 2010 Laureate - Ralph Brinster

 2010 Laureate - Shu Chien

 2010 Laureate - Rudolf Jaenisch

 2010 Laureate - Peter J. Stang

 2010 Laureate - Richard Tapia

 2010 Laureate - Srinivasa S.R. Varadhan

2009

 President Obama Presents the 2009 National Medal of Science Awards

 2009 Laureate - Yakir Aharonov

 2009 Laureate - Stephen J. Benkovic

 2009 Laureate - Esther M. Conwell

 2009 Laureate - Marye Anne Fox

 2009 Laureate - Susan Lee Lindquist

 2009 Laureate - Mortimer Mishkin

 2009 Laureate - David Mumford

 2009 Laureate - Stanley Prusiner

 2009 Laureate - Warren Washington

 2009 Laureate - Amnon Yariv

2008

 President Obama Presents the 2008 National Medal of Science Awards

 2008 Laureate - Berni Alder

 2008 Laureate - Francis Collins

 2008 Laureate - Joanna Fowler

 2008 Laureate - Elaine Fuchs

 2008 Laureate - Jim Gunn

 2008 Laureate - Michael Posner

 2008 Laureate - JoAnne Stubbe

 2008 Laureate - J. Craig Venter

Past National Medal of Science Awards

 2007 Laureate - Robert Lefkowitz

 2006 Laureate - Hyman Bass

 2006 Laureate - Robert Langer

 2000 Laureate - Nancy Andreasen


Established in 1991, the National Science and Technology Medals Foundation is a nonprofit corporation that seeks to enhance the prominence of the National Medals of Science and Technology as well as the recognition of laureates and their achievements. Working through a private-public partnership with the National Science Foundation and the Department of Commerce Technology Administration, the foundation strives to increase public awareness that America's economic strength, competitiveness, and standard of living depend on the nation's ability to lead the world in scientific discovery and technological development. Their website has a timeline that features all past recipients and features individual webpages and videos for each laureate. 

The National Medal of Technology and Innovation (formerly known as the National Medal of Technology) is the United States' highest honor for technological achievement. Established by the "Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980," the medal was first awarded in 1985. The medal recognizes those who have made lasting contributions to America's competitiveness, standard of living, and quality of life through technological innovation, as well as those who have made substantial contributions to strengthening the nation's technological workforce. It is awarded annually by the president of the United States in a public ceremony. The National Medal of Technology and Innovation program is administered by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Inquiries

For additional information, please e-mail nms@nsf.gov.

The information requested on the application materials is solicited under the authority of the National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended. It will be used in connection with the selection of qualified applicants and may be disclosed to qualified reviewers and staff assistants as part of the review process, and to government contractors as necessary to complete assigned work. Disclosure may be made of awardees' names, home institutions, and field of study for public information/affairs purposes including press releases. Biographical and background information from publicly available sources may also be used for this purpose. See Systems of Records, NSF-12, "Fellowships and Other Awards," 63 Federal Register 265 (January 5, 1998). Submission of the information is voluntary; however, failure to provide full and complete information may reduce the possibility of receiving an award.

The public reporting burden for this collection of information is estimated to average 10 hours per response, including the time for reviewing instructions, searching existing data sources, gathering and maintaining the data needed, and completing and reviewing the collection of information. Send comments regarding this burden estimate or any other aspect of this collection of information, including suggestions for reducing this burden to:

Suzanne H. Plimpton
Reports Clearance Officer
Policy Office, Division of Institution and Award Support
Office of Budget, Finance, and Award Management
National Science Foundation
Alexandria, VA 22314