FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 13, 2012
By Dave Smalley, Office of Naval Research
ARLINGTON, Va.—In a remarkable recognition for the Office of Naval Research (ONR), two ONR-supported scientists have been awarded the prestigious 2012 Kavli Prize for nanoscience and neuroscience.
The awards, announced May 31, are considered the world’s highest honor in their fields.
Both scientists, Dr. Mildred Dresselhaus and Dr. Ann Graybiel, are Institute Professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Dresselhaus was selected for her pioneering work in nanoscience—a rapidly-growing area of research focused on individual molecules and atoms.
“This award helps show how science can be used for societal benefit,” said Dresselhaus. “Nanoscience can be used to make new materials, or electronics that are beneficial to society—for instance, to improve the efficiency of fuel.”
Her research has contributed to the development of stronger but lighter new materials used by the Department of the Navy, as well as the automotive and aircraft industries.
A former director of the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, Dresselhaus won praise from Dr. Chagaan Baatar, the program officer at ONR sponsoring her work.
“Dr. Dresselhaus’ efforts have been vital,” he said. “I believe that nanoscience and nanotechnology will be an important enabler for reducing size, weight and power—a particular concern for Navy missions that rely on small unmanned systems, as well as for Marines in the field.”
In the field of neuroscience, Graybiel’s work on understanding the role of key brain regions that underlie our ability to learn, remember and think is likewise of critical importance for the Navy, said Dr. Harold Hawkins, an ONR program officer whose department is funding the scientist’s work.
“The Navy needs to train executive skills and situational awareness appropriate for performance in a complex and dynamic environment,” he said. “Dr. Graybiel’s work could be particularly important for Navy missions.”
And, he noted, Graybiel’s research will impact not just Sailors and Marines, but all society as well.
“These key brain regions help people acquire behaviors that are successful and that we can turn into good habits,” he said.
The Kavli prizes, which also recognize groundbreaking work in astrophysics, are awarded every two years by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.
They are sponsored by physicist and philanthropist Fred Kavli. Each prize carries a $1 million award.
About the Office of Naval Research
The Department of the Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR) provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps’ technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 70 countries, 1,035 institutions of higher learning and 914 industry partners. ONR employs approximately 1,400 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel, with additional employees at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C.