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About Sigma Xi » News » 2007 Award Winners Announced

January 10, 2007

2007 Sigma Xi Awards Honor Leading Scientists and Journalists

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC - Duke University ecologist Stuart L. Pimm, Conservation International president Russell A. Mittermeier, inventor Stanford R. Ovshinsky and University of Florida psychologist Lise Abrams have been selected to receive the top annual awards presented by Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society. Science journalists K.C. Cole and Rosalind Reid have been tapped for induction as honorary life members of the society.

Stuart Pimm, Doris Duke Professor of Conservation Ecology at Duke, will receive Sigma Xi's highest honor, the William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement. His expertise lies in species extinctions and what can be done to prevent them. He also studies the loss of tropical forests and its consequences to biodiversity.

The Procter Prize has been presented annually since 1950 to an outstanding scientist or engineer who is known for effective communication of complex ideas. The prize includes a Steuben glass sculpture and $5,000. The recipient also selects a young colleague to receive a $5,000 Sigma Xi Grant-in-Aid of Research.

Russell Mittermeier, president of Conservation International in Arlington, Va., will receive Sigma Xi's John P. McGovern Science and Society Award, presented annually since 1984. The award consists of a medal and a $5,000 honorarium.

Mittermeier is a prominent primatologist, herpetologist and wildlife conservationist. Having served as CI's president since 1989, he is the only active field biologist to head an international conservation organization. Mittermeier's fieldwork has been on primates, protected areas and other conservation issues in Brazil, Suriname, Madagascar and more than 20 other countries.

Stanford Ovshinsky will receive Sigma Xi's 2007 Walston Chubb Award for Innovation. Designed to honor and promote creativity among scientists and engineers, the award carries a $4,000 honorarium. This is only the second time this new award has been presented.

Ovshinsky is president and chief scientist and technologist of Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. (ECD Ovonics) in Rochester Hills, Mich. He is a self-taught engineer, inventor and physicist. His invention of amorphous semiconductor materials gave rise to a whole new segment of material engineering, aiding in the construction of semiconductors, solar energy and electric cars. These materials are used in computers, photocopiers, fax machines and LCD displays.

Lise Abrams, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Florida, will receive Sigma Xi's 2007 Young Investigator Award. The award includes $5,000 and a certificate of recognition. Sigma Xi members within 10 years of their highest earned degree are eligible for this award.

Abrams is the director of the Cognition and Aging Laboratory, where she is investigating memory and language processes and the effects of aging on these processes. Her research focuses on naturally-occurring retrieval problems, such as word retrieval failures and spelling errors, both of which increase with normal aging.

K.C. Cole and Rosalind Reid will be inducted as Sigma Xi's newest honorary members. An award-winning journalist and author, Cole teaches science journalism at the University of Southern California. Her latest book is Mind Over Matter: Conversations with the Cosmos.

Reid has been editor of American Scientist since 1992. Under her leadership, Sigma Xi's illustrated magazine of science and technology has won a number of awards and launched a suite of online services. She also presents workshops for scientists on communicating research in words and pictures.

Since 1983 some of the nation's top science journalists, as well as others who have made important contributions to science or Sigma Xi, have been elected honorary members.

The 2007 Sigma Xi awards will be presented at the society's Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference in Orlando on November 1-4, 2007. Profiles of award winners will appear in upcoming issues of American Scientist.

Founded in 1886, Sigma Xi is the international honor society for research scientists and engineers, with more than 500 chapters in North America and around the world. Membership is by invitation. More than 200 Sigma Xi members have received the Nobel Prize. In addition to publishing American Scientist, the society sponsors a number of programs that promote science and engineering. Sigma Xi's administrative offices are in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

Stuart L. Pimm
Duke University professor Stuart Pimm became a conservation biologist watching species become extinct in Hawaii in the 1970s. That experience led to his commitment to study the scientific issues behind the global loss of biological diversity. Pimm has written over 200 scientific papers including four review articles in Nature and Science and four books, including The Balance of Nature? Ecological issues in the conservation of species and communities, and his new global assessment of biodiversity's future: The World According to Pimm: a scientist audits the Earth. His research covers the reasons why species become extinct, how fast they do so, the global patterns of habitat loss and species extinction, the role of introduced species in causing extinction and the management consequences of this research. His commitment to the interface between science and policy has led to his testimony to both House and Senate Committees on the re-authorization of the Endangered Species Act. Current work includes studies of endangered species and ecosystem restoration in the Florida Everglades, and setting priorities for protected areas in the Atlantic Coast forest of Brazil (one of the world's "hotspots" for threatened species). He also holds the position of Extraordinary Professor at the Conservation Ecology Research Unit at the University of Pretoria and works on conservation issues across southern Africa. The Institute of Scientific Information recognized him in 2002 as being one of the world's most highly cited scientists. In 2006, Prince Willem-Alexander presented Pimm with the 2006 Dr. A. H. Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences on behalf of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Russell A. Mittermeier
Conservational International president Russell Mittermeier is a prominent primatologist, herpetologist and wildlife conservationist with 37 years of field experience in Central and South America, Africa and Asia. Having served as CI's president since 1989, he is the only active field biologist to head an international conservation organization. Mittermeier's fieldwork has been on primates, protected areas and other conservation issues in Brazil, Suriname, Madagascar and more than 20 other countries. His areas of expertise include biological diversity and its value to humanity, tropical biology and species conservation. He has written 15 books, including the trilogy Megadiversity, Hotspots, and Wilderness, and more 500 papers and popular articles on primates, reptiles, tropical forests and biodiversity. Mittermeier has served as chairman of the IUCN Species Survival Commission's Primate Specialist Group since 1977, has been an adjunct professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook since 1978, and president of the Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation since 1996. Prior to coming to CI, he was with the World Wildlife Fund-U.S. for 11 years, where his last role was as vice president for science. His work has been recognized by a number of institutions and national governments, and his many awards include the Order of the Golden Ark from His Royal Highness Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands (1995), the Grand Order of the Southern Cross from the President of Brazil (1997), and the Grand Sash and Order of the Yellow Star from the President of Suriname (1998), the San Diego Zoo Gold Medal (1987), and the Aldo Leopold Prize of the American Society of Mammalogists (2006). In 1998, he was one of Time magazine's "EcoHeroes for the Planet." He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1971, and received his Ph.D. in Biological Anthropology from Harvard University in 1977.

Stanford R. Ovshinsky
Stan Ovshinsky is president and chief scientist and technologist of Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. (ECD Ovonics) headquartered in Rochester Hills, Mich. He and his wife, the late Dr. Iris M. Ovshinsky, founded ECD Ovonics in 1960 to continue his work in the field of amorphous and disordered materials, which he originated in 1955. His fundamental and basic contributions established the field, resulting in transforming the old approaches to glasses to one yielding unexpected new physical, chemical and electronic mechanisms of great scientific and industrial importance. His pioneering work in the field has become the enabling technology in four major areas: energy generation, including thin-film, triple-junction photovoltaics and regenerative non-noble metal fuel cells; energy storage, including Ovonic nickel metal hydride consumer and electric and hybrid vehicle batteries and solid hydrogen storage; information systems, including amorphous semiconductors, switching and phase-change memories, both optical and electrical; and, atomically designed synthetic materials for a wide variety of uses, including non-noble metal catalysts replacing platinum and palladium. Ovshinsky has over 300 U.S. patents and is the author of over 275 scientific papers ranging from neurophysiology to amorphous semiconductors. His many awards include the Diesel Gold Medal for Invention from the German Inventors Association, the Coors American Ingenuity Award, the Toyota Award for Advancement and the American Solar Energy Society Hoyt Clarke Hottel Award. He was named a "Hero for the Planet" by Time magazine in 1999. He and his wife, Iris, were named as Heroes of Chemistry 2000 by the American Chemical Society for "advances in electrochemical, energy storage and energy generation…" and for having "made significant and lasting contributions to global human welfare" (August 2000). He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Lise Abrams
Lise Abrams is an associate professor of psychology at the University of Florida and director of the Cognition and Aging Laboratory, where she is investigating memory and language processes and the effects of aging on these processes. Her research represents some of the most important current research in cognitive aging, providing new knowledge about fundamental cognitive changes during normal aging and contributing to the development of a better-specified model of language and memory. Specifically, her research focuses on two areas: (1) memory retrieval failures such as the tip-of-the-tongue states, which are naturally-occurring retrieval failures that are characterized by a temporary inability to recall a known word; and (2) language errors such as the production of spelling errors and the (mis)detection of spelling errors during reading. As an undergraduate at Pomona College, Abrams double-majored in psychology and mathematics. She then received a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, earning her M.A. (1992) and Ph.D. (1997) in cognitive psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Abrams has published articles in a variety of peer-reviewed journals and has secured research funding from national agencies, including the National Institute on Aging and Sigma Xi. Also known as an inspiring and dynamic teacher, she has received recognition for her teaching and mentoring, earning a teaching award from the university's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and a mentorship award from the national organization Women in Cognitive Science. Abrams was recently accepted for inclusion in Who's Who of American Women, Who's Who in American Education and Who's Who of Emerging Leaders.

K.C. Cole
K.C. Cole is a visiting professor at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School, where she is developing a master's program in science journalism. She has been a science writer and columnist for The Los Angeles Times, and is the author of seven nonfiction books-most recently Mind Over Matter: Conversations with the Cosmos. Her articles, which have been featured in The Best American Science Writing 2004 and 2005 and The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2002, include contributions to The New Yorker, The Smithsonian, The New York Times, Newsweek, Discover, Newsday, Esquire, Ms. and The Washington Post. She has developed and taught courses in science and culture at Wesleyan University, Yale and UCLA. She has also been a regular commentator on science issues for KPCC-FM and also for NPR's Science Friday year-end science wrap-up. Cole particularly likes to show how science is integral to the arts and politics (and vice versa), and firmly believes, in the words of an artist friend that, "the worst disease afflicting human kind is 'hardening of the categories.'" To that end, she runs a monthly series of informal events on science/art/politics known as Categorically Not! She's made a point of writing about science in unlikely venues (such as women's magazines) and unlikely forms (at the LA Times, she wrote about the mathematics of voting, the science of affirmative action and why the O.J. Simpson trial had everything to do with the discovery of the top quark). She has been honored with the American Institute of Physics Science Writing prize; The Los Angeles Times Award for deadline reporting; the Skeptics' Society Edward R. Murrow Award for Thoughtful Coverage of Scientific Controversies; Los Angeles Times Award for best explanatory journalism, and the Elizabeth A. Wood Science Writing Award from the American Crystallographic Association. Cole has been associated with San Francisco's "museum of human awareness," the Exploratorium since 1972 and is currently working on a philosophical biography of its founder (and her mentor), the late physicist Frank Oppenheimer.

Rosalind Reid
Rosalind Reid has been editor of American Scientist, the interdisciplinary magazine of Sigma Xi, since 1992. Under her direction, the magazine has played a prominent role in the communication and public discussion of scientific research and issues on the interface of science and society. Reid launched the magazine's first Web site in 1995 and in 2003 directed the development of American Scientist Online, a fully illustrated content database and suite of online services. An advocate for improving the use of pictures in communicating complex scientific ideas and for broad access to the results of research, she has been a co-organizer and presenter for Image and Meaning, the MIT/Harvard-sponsored series of collaborative workshops aimed at improving the visual expression of science. She has also led communication workshops for scientists in the U.S., Latin America, Scandinavia, Canada and Europe and taught course modules in the public communication of science at Duke University. In 2003 she was the first Journalist in Residence at the Kavli Institute of Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Trained as a newspaper journalist, Reid holds a master's degree in public policy sciences from Duke University and was an award-winning reporter for daily newspapers in Maine and North Carolina. She came to Sigma Xi in 1990 after her first stint as a science writer-six years as assistant news director and research news editor at North Carolina State University. She is a member of the National Association of Science Writers.

 

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