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The Prize

AAAS and Science Translational Medicine invite applications for the 2021 AAAS Martin and Rose Wachtel Cancer Research Award. This annual award, funded by an endowment established through a generous bequest from Martin L. Wachtel, honors early-career investigators who have performed outstanding work in the field of cancer research. Entrants must have received their Ph.D. or M.D. within the last 10 years (in 2011 or later). The award winner(s) will be invited to deliver a public lecture on their research and receive a cash award of $25,000. The award-winning Essay(s) will be published in Science Translational Medicine.

The deadline for application is 1 February 2021.

Application Procedures


  • Each entrant must be a researcher in the field of cancer, with an advanced degree (Ph.D., M.D., D.V.M.) received within the last 10 years. If the applicant has more than one advanced degree, the 10 years are counted from the date that all degrees were completed in the case of uninterrupted training, such as a dual degree M.D.-Ph.D. program. However, if the applicant completed one degree, left to do research or other activities (including residency or fellowship), and then returned to study for an additional degree, the 10 years are counted from the time of completion of the first advanced degree. Residency, fellowship, or postdoctoral training do not extend the timeline.
  • The research must have been performed during the previous 10 years.
  • The entrant must have performed or personally directed the work described in the Essay.
  • Employees and affiliates of AAAS and their relatives are not eligible for the prize.
  • Applicants who did not win are welcome to reapply as long as they are otherwise eligible for the award. Previous winners and honorable mentions are not eligible to apply again.

Procedures for Entry

Entry packages must include the following materials, written in English:

  1. A letter of application written by the entrant or by a nominator describing the entrant's significant contributions to cancer research. The letter should explain how the candidate's research promises to make a lasting impact on the cancer field.
  2. An Essay written by the nominee describing his or her research project and explaining how it advances our understanding of cancer. The Essay must not exceed 1500 words (not including references) and should have a short title, a one-line abstract, no more than 10 references and one figure. The research described in the Essay must be in the field of cancer, and the applicant must have performed or directed all of the work. The research must have been performed within the last 10 years.
  3. A one-page letter of recommendation from the entrant's postdoctoral advisor, supervisor, or other senior colleague who is familiar with the entrant's work.
  4. A copy of the entrant's curriculum vitae.
  5. Copies of two of the entrant's papers that are most relevant to the Essay.

The applications for each year's award cycle are due on February 1 of that year. Send all materials in the entry package in pdf format to Science Translational Medicine at, with Wachtel Award Entry in the subject line. Please note: if your contact information changes after submission, you must inform us at

Criteria and Selection

The editors of Science Translational Medicine are responsible for the initial evaluation of the Essays. The top Essays are forwarded to the judging panel, which is composed of prominent international researchers in the field of cancer. The applicants are rated on two characteristics: scientific quality and significance of their research, and the clarity and style of the Essay.


Send inquiries by email to

Past Prize Winners  

2020: Luke Gilbert, Assistant Professor at the University of California, San Francisco, was recognized for applying CRISPR gene editing tools to systematically map gene networks and interactions that drive cancer progression and response to treatment. The two honorable mentions were Sam Behjati, Group Leader in Cellular Genetics at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, and Livia Eberlin, an Assistant Professor at The University of Texas at Austin.

2019: Cigall KadochAssistant Professor at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, was recognized for her work on chromatin remodeling in cancer. The two honorable mentions were Samuel Bakhoum, an Assistant Professor at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and Daniel DeCarvalho, an Associate Professor at the University of Toronto and Senior Scientist at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.

2018: Neville Sanjana, Core Faculty Member at the New York Genome Center and Assistant Professor at New York University, was recognized for his work on functional genomics of cancer, and Ömer Yilmaz, Member of the Koch Institute for Integrated Cancer Research and Assistant Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was recognized for his work on the role of the diet in the development of gastrointestinal cancers. 

2017: Hani Goodarzi, an Assistant Professor at the University of California, San Francisco, was recognized for his work on intracellular regulation of cancer metastasis. The three honorable mentions were Heather Christofk from the University of California, Los Angeles, Elizabeth Murchison from the University of Cambridge, and Florian Muller from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

2016: Roel Verhaak, an Associate Professor at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, was recognized for his work on genomic classification of brain tumors. The two honorable mentions were Nicola Aceto from the University of Basel and Eliezer Van Allen from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

2015: Nicholas Navin, an Assistant Professor at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, was recognized for his work on single-cell gene sequencing. The two honorable mentions were Agnel Sfeir from New York University School of Medicine and Nitzan Rosenfeld from Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute and University of Cambridge.

2014: Jeffrey Tyner, an Assistant Professor at Oregon Health & Science University, was recognized for his work on the genetics of leukemia, and Li Ma, an Assistant Professor at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, was recognized for her work on the molecular determinants of breast cancer progression. 

2013: Scott Tomlins, an Assistant Professor in the Michigan Center for Translational Pathology at the University of Michigan Medical School, was recognized for his studies of prostate cancer genetics. The three honorable mentions were Gregory Beatty from University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Michele De Palma from Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, and Franziska Michor from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.