Recognizing young research talent, the 2022 NOMIS & Science Young Explorer Award was presented to grand prize winner Bill Thompson and finalists Célia Lacaux and Stephen Kissler at a ceremony on Wednesday, May 10, 2023, at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. Bill Moran, publisher of the Science family of journals; Science Deputy Editor Stella Hurtley; and NOMIS Foundation Managing Director Markus Reinhard presented the awards.
“The NOMIS & Science Award was established by the NOMIS Foundation and Science/AAAS to support promising young researchers and to foster interdisciplinary research at the interface of the social and life sciences,” Moran said. The award is presented for outstanding research performed by the applicant as described in an essay. Award winners receive a cash prize, and their essay submissions are published in Science.
Reinhard stressed the importance of supporting young researchers: “To answer life’s fundamental questions, enable discoveries and advance human progress, we must engage innovative and unconventional approaches, which is particularly risky for early-career researchers. Therefore recognizing and supporting these bold young researchers is essential at this crucial phase of their career.”
Grand prize winner Bill Thompson
Bill Thompson’s research illustrates how understanding the cultural evolution of human cognitive abilities provides insight into how our cognitive algorithms can be shaped by social interactions, supporting the view that sociality and cognitive diversity are central to human intelligence. His research is detailed in his award-winning essay “An ever-evolving mind.”
Reflecting on the interdisciplinarity of his work, Thompson said, “The challenges we face as a society now are so complex, that we can’t expect any single discipline to provide the answers we need so urgently to complex problems like climate change or ethical integration of artificial intelligence into societies. For problems like those we need to step outside the traditional methods, step outside traditional disciplinary boundaries and work across fields to integrate ideas.”
“As an early-career scientist, awards like the NOMIS [and Science] Award are absolutely vital, especially for high-risk, high-reward research that takes a long time. This research award can create resources, it can create opportunity, and the publication in Science magazine creates visibility for a research community that is just getting started,” Thompson said.
Thompson is assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley (US).
Finalists Célia Lacaux and Stephen Kissler
Célia Lacaux is a finalist for her essay “A doorway into possibility.” Lacaux’s work revealed that the sleep-onset period promotes creativity, and posed that future tools could target this creative sweet spot and awaken us in time to capture inspirations before they are lost to sleep.
After completing her PhD in 2021, she moved to the lab of Sophie Schwartz at the Geneva University Neurocenter (Switzerland) for a postdoctoral position focusing on the relationship between sleep and creativity.
Stephen Kissler is a finalist for his essay “Revealing contagion.” Kissler’s work used mathematical models to measure the level of response needed for the COVID-19 pandemic, reveal the value of vaccination, and identify at-risk groups.
In 2023 he will start a lab in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Colorado (US) to research how immunological and behavioral factors influence the spread of respiratory viruses.
NOMIS & Science Young Explorer Award
Through the NOMIS & Science Young Explorer Award, the editors of Science and NOMIS are recognizing bold young researchers with an MD, PhD or MD/PhD who ask fundamental questions at the intersection of the social and life sciences. It is awarded to scientists who conduct research with an enthusiasm that catalyzes cross-disciplinary collaboration and who take risks to creatively address relevant and exciting questions.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world’s largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journals Science, Science Translational Medicine, Science Signaling, Science Advances, Science Immunology, and Science Robotics. AAAS was founded in 1848 and includes some 254 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science, founded by Thomas Edison, has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of more than 400,000.
The nonprofit AAAS—www.aaas.org—is open to all and fulfills its mission to “advance science and serve society” through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, and more. Science‘s daily online news is always free to the public, as are editorials, any paper with broad public health significance, and all research articles 12 months after publication. Science further participates in various efforts to provide free access for scientists in the world’s poorest countries.
Feature image: At the 2023 NOMIS & Science Young Explorer Award ceremony. Pictured (l-r) are Bill Moran, Stella Hurtley, Bill Thompson, Célia Lacaux and Markus Reinhard.
NOMIS & Science Young Explorer Award