Arthur Bienenstock Receives 2018 AAAS Philip Hauge Abelson Prize

In addition to his leadership and promotion of diversity and inclusion, Bienenstock has published over 100 scientific papers and spearheaded advancements in X-ray science. | Neil Orman/AAAS

Arthur Bienenstock, associate director of the Wallenberg Research Link at Stanford University and former president of the American Physical Society, is the winner of the 2018 Philip Hauge Abelson Prize given by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

A distinguished physicist and AAAS fellow, Bienenstock is being honored for his academic leadership and promotion of diversity and inclusion in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. The award also recognizes his efforts to improve public understanding of science.

The Wallenberg Research Link, which Bienenstock has led since 2008, fosters collaboration between Stanford and Swedish researchers by arranging for groups and individuals from Swedish universities, industry and government to visit Stanford. Bienenstock also serves as the special assistant for federal research policy to Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne.

Bienenstock was nominated for the award by Tobin Smith, vice president for policy at the Association of American Universities. In his nomination letter, Smith wrote that the AAU has turned to Bienenstock for advice and assistance on a variety of issues related to science and higher education policy.

Smith wrote that Bienenstock “fully embodies the qualities of public service, scientific achievement and service to the research community that AAAS seeks to recognize through the Abelson Prize.”

Smith also noted that Bienenstock has always been a strong proponent for increasing diversity in STEM fields. Bienenstock led a campaign with Stanford’s faculty senate and university trustees to eliminate a legal limit on the number of women students at the university, as part of efforts to promote diversity in the STEM workforce and other areas of public and professional life. He subsequently served as Stanford’s first Faculty Affirmative Action Officer to increase the diversity of the faculty. Smith wrote that Bienenstock also worked to expand opportunities for women and underrepresented minorities in STEM while serving as associate director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy during the Clinton administration.

In addition to his efforts to increase diversity across STEM disciplines, Bienenstock has advocated for increasing the federal government’s support of research. Alongside colleagues that include former National Institutes of Health Director Harold Varmus, Bienenstock has emphasized the importance of increasing funding for all sciences, noting the interdependencies of scientific fields. Specifically, Bienenstock argued in favor of ensuring adequate support for engineering and physical and social sciences research funded by agencies including the National Science Foundation and Department of Energy.

As a physicist, Bienenstock has pioneered advancements in X-ray science with synchrotrons and published over 100 scientific papers. He continued to conduct research while serving as director of the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory from 1978 until 1997. Throughout this period, SSRL made major advances in synchrotron radiation science. SSRL was incorporated into the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, and Bienenstock served as SLAC’s associate director from 1992 until 1997. Smith noted that during a 2015 symposium celebrating Bienenstock’s career, SLAC Director Chi-Chang Kao praised Bienenstock’s contributions to the research center.

“SLAC wouldn’t be the lab it is today if it weren’t for Artie,” said Kao. “He had a tremendous impact on the development of X-ray science, which has become one of the lab’s main research areas over the years.”

Before taking his current position as a federal policy adviser to Stanford’s president, Bienenstock held a variety of positions at the university, including vice provost and dean of research and graduate policy. In addition to his current positions at Stanford, Bienenstock is also a member of the National Science Board. Appointed to the board in 2012 by President Obama, Bienenstock chaired a task force that aimed to decrease the amount of time federally-funded researchers spend on administrative issues.

Bienenstock has received many other awards, including the Pittsburgh Diffraction Society’s Sidhu Award; the Rector’s Medal from the University of Helsinki; the Distinguished Service Award from the U.S. Department of Energy; and the 2009 Cuthbertson Award from Stanford University in recognition of “his pathbreaking role over three decades in shaping university policy and increasing diversity in both faculty and student recruitment.” Bienenstock is a fellow of the American Physical Society and the California Council on Science and Technology.

Bienenstock studied physics at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, where he earned bachelor and master of science degrees. He completed his Ph.D. in applied physics at Harvard University in 1962.

The Abelson Prize was established in 1985 by the AAAS Board of Directors to recognize individuals who have “made signal contributions to the advancement of science in the United States.” It is given annually to either a public servant, in recognition of sustained exceptional contributions to advancing science, or to a scientist whose career has been distinguished both for scientific achievement and for other notable services to the scientific community. Established in 1985 by the AAAS Board of Directors, the award consists of a commemorative medallion and an honorarium of $5,000. The Abelson Prize was inspired by the late Philip Hauge Abelson, long-time senior adviser to AAAS, editor of Science and president of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, who died in 2004 after more than 60 years of service to science and society.

The award will be bestowed to Bienenstock during the 184th AAAS Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas on Feb. 15, 2018.

[Associated image: Courtesy of Arthur Bienenstock]