The National Science Foundation (NSF) is proud to announce the selection of Brown University's Casey Dunn, an assistant professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, to receive its 2011 Alan T. Waterman Award. Dunn, an evolutionary biologist, works on the evolution, development, and diversity of life, focusing primarily on the use of phylogenetic tools to understand the links between genes, developmental mechanisms, form, function, and evolution.
The annual Waterman award recognizes an outstanding young researcher in any field of science or engineering supported by NSF. Candidates may not be more than 35 years old, or seven years beyond receiving a doctorate, and must stand out for their individual achievements. In addition to a medal, the awardee receives a grant of $500,000 over a 3-year period for scientific research or advanced study in their field.
Dunn is a brilliant evolutionary biologist, and is most well known for his work on functional specialization in biological systems (particularly colonial organisms) and studies of animal relationships. He has made many unexpected and original contributions to phylogenetics and evolutionary developmental biology, including the description of complex colony-level development in siphonophores. His research with poorly known organisms is made possible by integrating field and laboratory research with novel computational tools to address classical questions.
Dunn has a long relationship with NSF, and an even longer history receiving awards. He received a NSF graduate research fellowship and a doctoral dissertation improvement grant, as well as fellowships from Pop Tech Science and Public Leadership, and Kavli Frontiers of Science. With colleagues at Harvard, University of Kansas, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, he is part of a large grant project from NSF's Assembling the Tree of Life program, under which researchers are seeking to reconstruct, with phylogenomic tools, the history of the animal tree of life. His first book, Practical Computing for Biologists, was published last year.