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AAAS Announces 2024 Award Recipients

The American Association for the Advancement of Science has announced the 2024 winners of seven awards that recognize scientists, engineers, innovators and public servants for their contributions to science and society. This year’s awards recognize a broad span of accomplishments, from mentoring the next, more diverse cohort of chemical scientists, to using cutting-edge science to advance human rights, to connecting with faith communities about climate change. 

The 2024 recipients are:

  • AAAS Philip Hauge Abelson Prize: Joel R. Primack
  • AAAS Mani L. Bhaumik Award for Public Engagement with Science: Katharine Hayhoe
  • AAAS Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science: Ana Maria Porras
  • AAAS David and Betty Hamburg Award for Science Diplomacy: Tareq Abu Hamed
  • AAAS Award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility: Eric Stover
  • AAAS Lifetime Mentor Award: Luis A. Colón
  • AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize: “Early dispersal of domestic horses into the Great Plains and Northern Rockies”

The winners will be recognized at the 2024 AAAS Annual Meeting, to be held in Denver from Feb. 15-17, where they will be honored with a tribute video and special reception.

Five of the awards include a prize of $5,000, while the AAAS David and Betty Hamburg Award for Science Diplomacy awards the winning individual or team $10,000 and the AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize awards the winning individual or team $25,000.

Learn more about the awards’ history, criteria and selection processes at the AAAS awards page. Read on to learn more about the accomplished individuals and teams honored by AAAS this year.

AAAS Philip Hauge Abelson Prize

Joel R. Primack is the recipient of the 2024 AAAS Philip Hauge Abelson Prize, which since 1985 has honored an individual who has made significant contributions to the advancement of science in the United States through their research, policy work or public service.

Joel Primack
Joel Primack | Photo credit: University of California, Santa Cruz

Primack, distinguished professor of physics emeritus at the University of California, Santa Cruz, receives the award for his many contributions to the scientific community, the science policy world and society writ large. He has created opportunities for scientists to engage in policy, supported policymakers in their evidence-informed decision-making, advanced scientific knowledge in the field of physics and cosmology, and improved public understanding of science.

Primack originated the first congressional fellowship program for scientists. The program, which grew out of a series of workshops he launched as a graduate student in Stanford University, grew into the AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellows Program. In more than 50 years, STPF has brought the expertise of thousands of scientists and engineers into the federal government. 

Primack was also instrumental in the creation of other key forces in science policy engagement. He is a founder of the Union of Concerned Scientists, helped to create the American Physical Society Forum on Physics and Society, proposed the APS program of studies on public policy issues, contributed to the founding of the NSF Science for Citizens program, and created and provided initial leadership for the AAAS Program on Science and Human Rights. Primack has also used science engagement as an opportunity for improving international relations, serving as a U.S. delegate to several Pugwash Conferences.

Primack’s scientific research focuses on the formation and evolution of galaxies and the nature of dark matter. A leader in the emergence of the field of particle astrophysics, Primack has been named a fellow of APS for his scientific work. Primack continues to teach undergraduate and graduate students and advise doctoral candidates at UCSC, where he has been a faculty member since 1973. He has publicly communicated the importance of science, working with leading planetariums and writing about cosmology for popular audiences.

“As a young scientist, I was often advised that spending time on social and political issues would be career suicide, and that I should focus solely on research,” said Primack. “But I take seriously the social responsibility of scientists — it was even the topic of my bar mitzvah speech! — and I deeply appreciate being recognized both for my scientific contributions and for my efforts to broaden the opportunities for scientists and scientific societies to help solve the challenges facing our world.” 

AAAS Mani L. Bhaumik Award for Public Engagement with Science

Climate scientist and science communicator Katharine Hayhoe is the recipient of the 2024 Mani L. Bhaumik Award for Public Engagement with Science. The award, which recognizes scientists and engineers who demonstrate excellence in their contribution to public engagement with science, was established in 1987. Since 2019, it has been endowed by quantum physicist Mani L. Bhaumik, whose support of the award has placed renewed emphasis on recognizing meaningful dialogue and exchange between the recipient and various publics.

Katharine Hayhoe
Katharine Hayhoe | Photo credit: Jay Godwin/LBJ Library

Hayhoe, whose research focuses on the development and application of climate projections to evaluate the future impacts of climate change, is the chief scientist at The Nature Conservancy and the Paul Whitfield Horn Distinguished Professor and Endowed Chair in Public Policy and Public Law in Public Administration at Texas Tech University. 

She has also demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to communicating about climate change, particularly with religious communities, and to encouraging other scientists to engage in dialogue with their own communities, with a focus on shared values and beliefs.

“Who you are is unique, and that means you can reach a unique audience. The corollary is that we are most effective when we’re talking to people who we share the most with,” Hayhoe told AAAS in 2020. “Starting our conversation with what we have in common is the most important thing we can do.

Her TED Talk, “The Most Important Thing You Can Do About Climate Change: Talk About It,” has garnered more than 4 million views. She is the author of “Saving Us: A Climate Scientist's Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World” and co-author of “A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decision” alongside her husband, a pastor. Her digital series, “Global Weirding: Climate, Politics, and Religion with Katharine Hayhoe,” is distributed by PBS Digital Studios.

Among Hayhoe’s many awards and recognitions is being named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People and a United Natons Champion of the Earth in Science and Innovation. 

AAAS Early Career Award for Public Engagement in Science

Ana Maria Porras is the recipient of the 2024 Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science, which recognizes early-career scientists and engineers — those who are within seven years of completing their terminal degree — who demonstrate excellence in their activities that engage the public with science.

Ana Maria Porras
Ana Maria Porras | Photo credit: If/Then® Collection

Porras, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Florida, has combined arts and crafts, advocacy for Spanish speakers and multilingualism in science, and online and in-person engagement to highlight diverse voices in science and build bridges between scientists, future scientists and the broader public.

In 2018, Porras found a new way to combine her interest in art and science: crocheting stuffed microbes. She shared her work, along with stories about the importance of microorganisms in our world, on Instagram, launching #MicrobeMondays and later #MicroMartes to share content in Spanish. Through her crafting and social media engagement, Porras reached groups historically underrepresented in microbiology – women and U.S.-based Spanish speakers. Her platform also became a space for her audience to learn more about COVID during the 2020 pandemic, with Porras answering questions and hosting interviews with other scientists.

Her social media engagement has led to other outreach, including writing an article about the importance of science communication in multiple languages, serving on the organizing committee for the InclusiveSciComm symposium, and working with the podcast Story Collider to produce their first “Stories of Science” show in Spanish. Porras has also worked directly with young people as a volunteer with Science Clubs Colombia, an organization in her home country that puts on project-oriented, STEM-focused workshops for children.

Said Porras, “Historically, the AAAS Early Career Award in Public Engagement with Science has recognized outstanding work by innovative leaders who also center the community in their work. I am deeply honored to have my work recognized next to theirs and thankful for the many collaborators and communities I have had the privilege to collaborate with during the last six years. In particular, I am excited that, through my work, the AAAS is recognizing the importance of multilingual public engagement, both nationally and globally.”

AAAS David and Betty Hamburg Award for Science Diplomacy

Tareq Abu Hamed, executive director of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in Israel, receives the 2024 AAAS David and Betty Hamburg Award for Science Diplomacy for his leadership in using science to build relationships across the Middle East, particularly between Israelis and Palestinians, to work together to address mutual environmental concerns.

Tareq Abu Hamed
Tareq Abu Hamed | Photo credit: France 24

The award recognizes an individual or a small group working together in the scientific, engineering or foreign affairs communities making an outstanding contribution to furthering science diplomacy. First established in 1992 as the International Scientific Cooperation Award, AAAS renamed its Award for Science Diplomacy in 2021 for David and Betty Hamburg, who championed science diplomacy throughout their careers in science and medicine as a means of advancing science, human rights, peace and cooperation. 

Abu Hamed is a graduate of universities in Turkey and Israel, holds a Ph.D. in chemical engineering and is the first Palestinian to head an academic institute in Israel. As the executive director of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, Abu Hamed builds trust and fosters cooperation to address the effects of the climate crisis on vulnerable communities. His career at AIES has also seen him lead the Transboundary Renewable Energy Working Group, through which he brought together experts from Israel, the West Bank, Gaza and Jordan to work on socially impactful renewable technology projects. As the director of the Center for Renewable Energy, he was involved in small-scale renewable energy projects in the region. He has mentored students as the academic director for AIES, which is a key pathway for Palestinian and Jordanian students into Israel postgraduate programs. As AIES leader, a role he has held since 2021, Abu Hamed launched the Center for Climate Change Policy and Research. 

Outside of his work at AIES, Abu Hamed was the highest-ranking Palestinian in the Israeli government when he served first as deputy chief scientist, then acting chief scientist of Israel’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Space in 2015 and 2016. He co-chairs the Regional Cooperation and Security Task Force of Israel’s Climate Forum to promote regional and international collaboration on climate change. Abu Hamed served as a member of the Israeli government delegation to COP26: the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) and led a delegation to COP27 that featured an Israeli, a Palestinian and a Jordanian.

“I am genuinely honored to receive the 2024 AAAS David and Betty Hamburg Award,” said Abu Hamed. “This recognition reinforces my belief that we must hold onto hope in the face of incredibly difficult circumstances. The Arava Institute remains unwavering in our commitment to advance peace and sustainability through science diplomacy and cross-border environmental cooperation. It is this approach that will allow us to rise above conflict and ultimately deliver a better future for the region and the world.”

AAAS Lifetime Mentor Award

For his longstanding commitment to advancing diversity in the chemical sciences through recruitment and mentoring of students from groups traditionally underrepresented in science, Luis A. Colón is the recipient of the 2024 AAAS Lifetime Mentor Award.

Luis A. Colon
Luis A. Colón | Photo credit: Nancy J. Parisi/University at Buffalo

The Lifetime Mentor Award honors an individual with more than 25 years of experience who has mentored significant numbers of underrepresented students: women of all backgrounds, men from underrepresented minority groups (African American, Native American and Hispanic) and people with disabilities. Winners also must have demonstrated scholarship, activism and community-building on behalf of underrepresented groups in STEM.

Since 1995, Colón has worked to recruit students from his undergraduate alma mater – the University of Puerto Rico at Cayey – to conduct research at the University at Buffalo. By building relationships with Hispanic-serving institutions, hosting recruitment visits, tailoring research projects to students’ own interests and a deep level of personal mentoring, Colón has created a diverse research community in a department that previously had no Hispanic representation. Since the program’s inception, more than 100 students have taken part in his summer internships, and a number of other institutions have replicated Colón’s model.

He has also been instrumental in creating an inclusive institutional culture at University at Buffalo, where he serves as SUNY Distinguished Professor, A. Conger Goodyear Professor of Chemistry and associate dean for inclusive excellence in the College of Arts and Sciences. In 2013, he founded the Institute for Strategic Enhancement of Educational Diversity to create an inclusive community for students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty and staff.

Colón has directly mentored 51 graduate students, the majority of whom hail from underrepresented groups, but his impacts are even more widely felt. One peer who nominated Colón for the Lifetime Mentor Award estimated that more than one-third of faculty members from underrepresented groups hired in chemistry departments in recent years have a connection to Colón’s program or those it inspired.

“This award reaffirms my conviction that providing opportunity, guidance, and sharing knowledge in a supportive environment can be reassuring and empowering to advance science,” said Colón. “It also gives me a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that former students and professional colleagues recognize the importance of the lifetime commitment of a mentor.”

AAAS Award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility

Eric Stover is the recipient of the 2024 AAAS Award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility. Stover, the faculty director of the Human Rights Center at the University of California Berkeley School of Law and adjunct professor of law and public health, is honored for his work that combines pioneering scientific methods and technology with a commitment to human rights to hold accountable perpetrators of mass human rights violations and advance justice for their victims.

Eric Stover
Eric Stover | Photo credit: Maggie Andresen

The award honors scientists, engineers or their organizations whose exemplary actions have demonstrated scientific freedom and/or responsibility in challenging circumstances. Actions worthy of the award can include acting to protect public health or safety, focusing public attention on potential impacts of science and technology, or defending the professional freedom of scientists and engineers. The award can honor a lifetime of service or a particular act that demonstrates the value of scientific freedom and responsibility. 

Stover has led forensic investigations of mass graves in Argentina, Guatemala, Honduras, Chile, Brazil, Iraq, El Salvador, Bosnia, Croatia and Rwanda. Stover is also a founding member of the International Campaign to Ban Land Mines, the organization that received the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize. His work in the Balkans helped lead to the conviction of the perpetrators of the Srebrenica massacre. His work in Uganda has led to the establishment of a school for girls and women who were victims of the Lord’s Resistance Army. Early in his career, he headed the AAAS Science and Human Rights program. While that portion of his career cannot be considered for the award, his nominators noted the impact and illustriousness of the many other activities advancing human rights through science.

“I am deeply honored and grateful for this award,” said Stover. “Back in the 1980s, it was a privilege working at the AAAS with forensic scientists, geneticists, and health professionals worldwide to introduce scientific methods and procedures into war crimes and human rights investigations. These collaborations helped families of the disappeared find their missing loved ones and pursue justice and accountability for these crimes.”

AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize

An interdisciplinary team of more than 80 researchers led by Indigenous scholars has received the 2024 AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize for an article that showcased findings about the rapid spread of horses through Indigenous societies in North America.

Cover of the March 31, 2023 issue of Science magazine
The March 31, 2023 issue of Science

The AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize, supported by The Fodor Family Trust, was established in 1923 and is awarded annually to the author or authors of an outstanding paper published in the Research Articles or Reports sections of Science. Recipients of the award, the oldest awarded by AAAS, collectively receive $25,000.

Early dispersal of domestic horses into the Great Plains and Northern Rockies” was published in the March 31, 2023, issue of Science.

Horses originated in North America more than 4 million years ago before evolving and dispersing into Eurasia. Study results show that horses were quickly integrated into Indigenous lifeways upon their reintroduction.

A team composed of Indigenous and Western scientists investigated this history through an interdisciplinary study of historic archaeological horse remains that integrated genomic, isotopic, radiocarbon, and paleopathological evidence. They found that horses quickly spread from Spanish settlements in the Southwest into the Northern Rockies and Great Plains by at least the early 1600s via Indigenous trading networks, and they were well-integrated into Indigenous societies and their beliefs, trade and transport networks before the arrival of Europeans in the region in the 18th century. The researchers found that horses were integrated into Indigenous life many decades earlier than was previously understood by the Western scientific community – findings that align with the oral histories of multiple Indigenous groups. 

Said Antonia Loretta Afraid of Bear-Cook, co-author and knowledge keeper for the Oglala Lakota, "Together with our horses, we have always understood what it means to be free. What is done to us, is done to them. Their story is our story. In granting this award, you heard us with your hearts. Your award honors our traditional sciences, knowledge and this deep ancestral relationship."

Judges praised the paper not only for its significant breadth of scientific methods and authorship but also for the leadership of Indigenous scientists and knowledge keepers.

“Walking the earth as Lakota is to protect, sustain and advocate for all life. This global collaboration and those to come are what is necessary for ourselves and all Peoples to protect their traditional lands, relations and life ways for the sustainability of Grandmother Earth and all life. The time is upon us,” said Chief Joe American Horse, co-author, Oceti Sakowin knowledge keeper and Indigenous scientist.

The findings can serve as a model for further research informed by both Indigenous and Western scientific systems.

“This award creates a global platform of recognition demonstrating the strength inherent in combining Indigenous and Western scientific systems, methods and methodologies to create a powerful new path forward in the sciences,” said Yvette Running Horse Collin, an Oglala Lakota scientist and geneticist.

Said Ludovic Orlando, senior author and study coordinator, Director of the Centre for Anthropobiology and Genomics of Toulouse, France, “Following the horse brought together research systems built on totally different foundations. This award first and foremost goes to horses for their capacity to help us navigate between different worlds and reconnect them.”

Comanche Tribal Elder and Historian Jimmy Arterberry said, “This award represents the honor of our oral traditions, affirmed through science.”

Added corresponding author William Taylor, assistant professor and curator of archaeology at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History and director of the CU Archaeozoology Laboratory, “Winning this prize is a tremendous honor for each of us, and it feels like recognition of an important shift in the way we approach both science and the study of our past. I know that for the folks on this diverse team and for our university, though, it's just a starting point - and I can't wait to see where we can build outwards to from here.”