Although many of the research community's major awards honor investigators' lifetime achievements, there are only a few that recognize researchers early on in their careers. One of the most prestigious of these honors, the National Science Foundation's Alan T. Waterman Award, was recently presented to Mark E. Davis, professor of chemical engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

The prize, first awarded in 1976 and named after the first director of NSF, is given for outstanding achievement in science, mathematics, or engineering. The honoree receives $500,000 for three years of scientific research at an institution of his or her choice. The award recognizes researchers aged 35 years and younger, or those who are not more than five years beyond receipt of their Ph.D.'s.

Davis, 34, is currently on a sabbatical at Stanford University, but will return to Virginia Tech in June. The chemical engineer says he is grateful for...

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