The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has named May R. Berenbaum, professor and head of the Department of Entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as winner of the 2009 AAAS Public Understanding of Science and Technology Award.
Berenbaum was 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." She will receive the award during a 20 February ceremony at the 2010 AAAS Annual Meeting in San Diego.
Specifically, the AAAS award committee said: "One of the most respected entomologists in the world, Dr. Berenbaum is 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."
In addition to research that has transformed the field of chemical ecology and has had a major impact on agriculture and the environment, Berenbaum was described in a 1997 New York Times article as "the most relentless creative insect advocate in the world." She is the legendary creator of the "Insect Fear Film Festival," which melds entomology and film into a new, successful form of public engagement with science. Now more than 25 years old, the annual event draws thousands of viewers and international media coverage.
Throughout her career, Berenbaum has emerged as an authoritative public source of information on insect problems. The prize selection committee commended 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 as a National Associate has included chairing the committee on Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), which issued its report on
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American Association for the Advancement of Science