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2009 Award for Public Engagement with Science Recipient

AAAS Award for Public Understanding of Science & Technology

2009 Award Recipient

May R. Berenbaum

May R. Berenbaum

May R. Berenbaum is honored for her extraordinary ability to integrate her original research on the world of insects with her inspirational efforts to communicate the wonders and complexity of nature.

The AAAS Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology, established in 1987, recognizes working scientists and engineers who make outstanding contributions to the “popularization of science.” Recipients receive $5,000 and a commemorative plaque.

May Berenbaum is one of the most respected entomologists in the world, distinguished by a career that uniquely combines high-impact scientific discovery and effective public engagement. She transformed chemical ecology, a field that seeks to understand nature in chemical terms, by pioneering its integration with genetics.

Dr. Berenbaum graduated with a degree in biology summa cum laude from Yale University and earned a Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology from Cornell University. She has been a Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for over 20 years in the Departments of Entomology; Plant Biology; and Ecology, Ethology, and Evolution; becoming the Head of the Department of Entomology in 1992.

She is also affiliated with the Center for Economic Entomology at the Illinois Natural History Survey.

In addition to being well-known for conducting research that has transformed the field of chemical ecology and had a major impact on agriculture and the environment, Dr. Berenbaum has been called “the most relentless creative insect advocate in the world,” by the New York Times (1997). She is the legendary creator of the “Insect Fear Film Festival,” a new and highly successful public engagement effort that melds entomology and film. Now more than 25 years old, this annual event attracts thousands of viewers and draws international media coverage.

Dr. Berenbaum has also emerged as the scientist that the public looks to for information on insect problems. This stems from her extensive service to the National Research Council (NRC) where she is a National Associate, an honor reserved for National Academy of Sciences members who make extraordinary contributions to the NRC. Her work includes chairing the committee on Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), which issued its report on the status of pollinators in October 2006, just months before massive disappearances of honey bees were reported across the country. She emerged as the CCD spokesperson for the scientific community and has written op-eds and testified before Congress about the issue.

Dr. Berenbaum is highly deserving of this award because of her paradigm-changing scientific discoveries and passionate dedication to the public understanding of science.

Please click here for a list of past recipients.