National Academies Announce Inaugural Recipients of Eric and Wendy Schmidt Awards for Excellence in Science Communications, Totaling $600,000

October 12, 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine announced the inaugural recipients of the Eric and Wendy Schmidt Awards for Excellence in Science Communications. Supported by Schmidt Futures, these prestigious awards recognize science journalists and research scientists who have developed creative, original work that addresses issues and advances in science, engineering, and/or medicine for the general public. 

A total of 24 awards were announced — 12 awards for best science communication by research scientists and 12 awards for science journalists, split among six categories. In each of the categories, one $40,000 top prize and three $20,000 awards will be given, totaling $600,000. 

The winners will be honored during a recognition event and workshop on Nov. 11 and 12 in Washington, D.C. 

“Congratulations to this year’s winners, who did a superb job communicating about complex issues related to science, engineering, and health in innovative ways that capture people’s attention and imagination,” said Leah H. Jamieson, selection committee chair and Ransburg Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Dean Emerita of Engineering at Purdue University. “The quality and diversity of topics of this year’s submissions were remarkable. The works created by the winners were sometimes alarming, sometimes lyrical, sometimes provocative, often inspiring, always engaging. Our committee feels privileged to have been part of this awards program in its inaugural year. We are delighted that the recognition accorded to winners will help advance careers in science communication while informing the public about these fields that play such important roles in our lives.” 

“The exemplary work that these award winners are doing to accurately and engagingly communicate about science to the public has never been more important,” said National Academy of Sciences President Marcia McNutt. “In an often complicated, murky, and distorted information environment, these superb communicators are shining a light on critical truths, facts, and evidence that people need to make informed decisions about their lives.” 

“Scientists and journalists are both seekers and sharers of knowledge, but they speak what might as well be two languages– one for academics within a particular field, the other for consumers who are inundated with news,” said Wendy Schmidt, co-founder of Schmidt Futures and president and co-founder of the Schmidt Family Foundation and Schmidt Ocean Institute. “The communicators honored with these awards not only speak both languages but also bridge them, telling stories that capture the furthest reaches of human understanding in words that are clear and relevant for all audiences.”

Chosen by the National Academy of Science’s committee and jury of 27 appointees, recipients were selected from 550 entries for works published or aired in 2021 through February 2022. The recipients are: 


Science Journalist: Freelancer

Top Prize Winner:
Ben Rawlence, Black Mountains College for

A superb, inspiring work that is far and away the most ambitious entry in terms of reporting, storytelling, science, and personal commitment and succeeds on all those fronts.” – Selection Committee commentary of Ben’s work


Brian Christian, Freelance

Brooke Jarvis, Freelance

Emiliano Rodríguez Mega, Freelance


Science Journalist: Early Career

Top Prize Winner: 

Katherine Wu of The Atlantic for

Wu is an outstanding example of an early career journalist who has a gift for selecting important topics, exploring them meticulously and thoughtfully and in an engaging way. Absolute powerhouse of a writer who beautifully points out how culture and biases influence science.” – Selection Committee commentary of Katherine’s work


Ridwan Karim Dini-Osman, Freelance 

Rodrigo Pérez Ortega, Science/AAAS

Alex Schwartz, Klamath Falls Herald and News 


Science Journalist: Local/Regional 

Top Prize Winner: 

Patrick Mayoyo of Next Generation Media LTD for

Mayoyo worked hard to incorporate facts, figures, and explain clearly the science of what he was talking about whether it was fungi, carbon credits, or tectonic plates. He illustrates scientific phenomena in unique and meaningful ways by incorporating tradition and centering his work on ideas that are largely unheard of.”- Selection Committee commentary of Patrick’s work


J.D. Allen, WSHU Public Radio, Long Island, New York

Trent Knoss, Denver Museum of Nature & Science / The Institute for Science & Policy, Craig, Colorado

Brett Walton, Circle of Blue, Aurora, Nebraska


Research Scientist: Graduate Student

Top Prize Winner: 

Jessica Kendall-Bar, University of California, Santa Cruz for 

Kendall-Bar’s range of beautiful, relatable work utilizes impressive, innovative tools and platforms that can be used to further the cause of science communication into the future.” – Selection Committee commentary of Jessica’s work


Arianna Long, University of California, Irvine

Alice Lu-Culligan, Yale University

Fayth Hui Tan, California Institute of Technology


Research Scientist: Early Career 

Top Prize Winner:
Katelyn Jetelina, School of Public Health, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston for 

Jetelina offers very concise and clearly written explanations from the unique (and invaluable) perspective of an early career epidemiologist [who] deals with the nuances relating to COVID infection, vaccination, and public health issues in an extremely effective way. The breadth of her influence and the importance of her work to many members of the public over the last two years reiterates the comprehensiveness and deep impact of her work.” –  Selection Committee commentary of Katelyn’s work


Patience Kiyuka, Kenya Medical Research Institute 

Chloe Lucas, University of Tasmania

Kristel Tjandra, Stanford University


Research Scientist: Mid-Career to Later Career

Top Prize Winner: 

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein of the University of New Hampshire for 

Prescod-Weinstein makes dark matter and astrophysics personally meaningful and fascinating for readers by blending physics and metaphysics in jaw-dropping and beautiful ways. It’s not just science, it’s also literary, it’s worldly, it’s masterful. Exceptional writing on complex topics, done in a voice aimed at marginalized audiences. Reading her writing is a joy.” – Selection Committee commentary of Chanda’s work


Jordan Ellenberg, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Jacquelyn Gill, University of Maine

Cassandra Quave, Emory University


The program is formally known as the “Eric and Wendy Schmidt Awards for Excellence in Science Communication, given by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in partnership with Schmidt Futures.” The awards were created this year to increase the quality of science communication by recognizing outstanding science communication among research scientists and early career science journalists, and creating opportunities for science journalists to make connections and pursue stories at the national, regional, and local levels. For more information on the awards and the work of this year’s recipients, please visit

Follow program updates by signing up for our newsletter at the link above and join the conversation on Twitter using #SciCommFutures. 

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine. The National Academies operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln. 

Schmidt Futures bets early on exceptional people making the world better. Founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt, Schmidt Futures is a philanthropic initiative that brings talented people together in networks to prove out their ideas and solve hard problems in science and society. To learn more about its method and the diverse types of capital and tools it deploys, visit