The Alan T. Waterman Award is the United States's highest honorary award for scientists no older than 40, or no more than 10 years past receipt of their Ph.D. It is awarded on a yearly basis by the National Science Foundation. In addition to the medal, the awardee receives a grant of $1,000,000 to be used at the institution of their choice over a period of five years for advanced scientific research.
Congress established the annual award in August 1975 to mark the 25th Anniversary of the National Science Foundation and to honor its first Director, Alan T. Waterman. The annual award recognizes an outstanding young researcher in any field of science or engineering supported by the National Science Foundation. 
Candidates must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Prior to the 2018 competition, candidates must have been 35 years of age or younger or not more than 7 years beyond receipt of the Ph.D. degree by December 31 of the year in which they are nominated. As of the 2018 competition, these requirements were changed to 40 years of age or 10 years post-PhD. Candidates should have demonstrated exceptional individual achievements in scientific or engineering research of sufficient quality to place them at the forefront of their peers. Criteria include originality, innovation, and significant impact on the field. Potential candidates must be nominated and require four letters of reference, but none can be submitted from the nominee’s home institution. Solicitation announcements are sent to universities and colleges, scientific, engineering and other professional societies and organizations, members of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering.
For developing techniques and tools to image dynamic physical, chemical and biological processes with extremely high resolution. Her research is enabling new knowledge to help solve global challenges in biomedicine, energy and computing.
For her innovative contributions to understanding children's attitudes toward and identification with social groups, early prosocial behavior, the development of notions of fairness, morality, inequality and the emergence of social biases.
For his contributions to geometry and topology, the study of properties of shapes that are unaffected by deformations, such as stretching or twisting and for solving problems that stumped other mathematicians for decades and generating solutions that provide new tools for geometric analysis.
For pioneering contributions to the synthesis and understanding of molecular porous solids with unusual electronic properties, especially for creative synthetic design leading to microporous materials with high electrical conductivity and redox activity.
For his work in metamaterial theory and design, including insightful contributions to plasmonic cloaking; effective light manipulation at the nano scale; innovative ideas in breaking time reversal symmetry leading to enhanced non-reciprocity from acoustics to microwaves and optics; and for unique contributions to metamaterials.
"Chiang is an electrical engineering professor of Princeton University who uses innovative mathematical analyses to design simpler and more powerful wireless networks. He is the founder of Princeton's EDGE Laboratory, which aims to connect network theory and real-world applications. By developing methods for analyzing the often complex interaction between different layers of wireless networks, his work creates a principled picture of seemingly chaotic interactions and allows for systematic solutions to previously intractable problems."
By illuminating the fundamental limits on what can be computed in the physical world, and the potential implications of those limits, Scott Aaronson has staked out important new ground in computational theory", said MIT President Susan Hockfield, "I am delighted that the National Science Foundation has recognized his dual abilities, both to articulate key research questions and to offer new methods and ideas for addressing them, with the Alan T. Waterman Award.
Wood is an associate professor in Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and a core faculty member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. He is founder of the Harvard Microrobotics Lab which leverages expertise in microfabrication for the development of biologically-inspired robots with feature sizes on the micrometer to centimeter scale.
For his gifted integration of field biology, genomics, and computational science that has led to changing our understanding of the evolutionary tree, integrating morphological and molecular perspectives on diversity, and developing new tools that are revolutionizing biology.
Subhash is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at NYU and is recognized already by many other honors and awards. Subhash is a brilliant theoretical computer scientist and is most well known for his Unique Games Conjecture. He has made many unexpected and original contributions to computational complexity and his work draws connections between optimization, computer science, mathematics.
For his pioneering research into the discovery and characterization of planets orbiting other stars, which has allowed, for the first time, the study of their surface conditions and atmospheres, and has revolutionized interdisciplinary research related to exoplanets.
For outstanding contributions in the creative synthesis of semiconductor nanowires and their heterostructures, and innovations in nanowire-based photonics, energy conversion, and nanofluidic applications.
For his contribution to the field of sociology as a research scientist and published author exemplified by his research on how socio-economic status is transmitted across generations. He brings methodological rigor and sophistication to deep social questions.
For innovative research that led to the development of a technique that facilitates crystallization of large RNA molecules; for determining the crystal structures of catalytic RNA molecules and an RNA molecule that forms the ribonucleo-protein core of the signal recognition particle; and for deciphering structural features of those molecules that permit a greater understanding of the mechanistic basis of RNA function in both catalysis and protein synthesis.
For innovative research in transition-metal activation of small molecules, including the discovery of reactions to cleave nitrogen-nitrogen multiple bonds under mild conditions. His revolutionary approach to chemical reactivity has answered key questions and furthered development in catalyst design and nitrogen fixation.
For his leading role in the creation of Bose-Einstein condensation in a gas, and for innovations in the manipulation, trapping and cooling of atoms that led to the realization of this new state of matter.
For his seminal contributions to the design of well-defined organometallic catalysts for the synthesis of novel polymers, including chiral cyclopolymers and stereoblock polyolefins. The development of catalysts which change their structure as they work has established a new paradigm in the synthesis of block-polymers.
For his broad and original contributions to the theory of the quantum dynamics of macroscopic systems and quantum phase transitions, specifically his prediction of a vortex glass phase in high temperature superconductors, his studies of the superconductor-insulator transition and is seminal work on quantum transport in Luttinger liquids.
For his deep understanding and penetrating insights in the field of complex differential geometry, including his solution of the problem of existence of Kähler-Einstein metrics on complex surfaces, his proof that the moduli space for Kähler-Einstein metrics with zero first Chern class is non-singular, and his proof of the stability of algebraic manifolds by using differential geometric methods.
For her innovative applications of chemical engineering principles and chemical-reactor theory in analysis of the process of digestion in marine invertebrates, filling an important gap in existing ecological theory dealing with animals strategies for acquiring energy and nutrients. Her research is important to understanding the cycling of materials in the sea--in particular the global carbon cycle and global climate change cycles.
For his major contributions to the understanding of diffuse interstellar medium and the physics and evolution of neutron star pulsars and x-ray binary stars. For his leading role in the discovery of fast pulsars, a major new phenomenon, and in the development of optical and radio spatial interferometry.
For his pioneering work in catalytic materials, catalysis, and reaction engineering, including the first synthesis of a molecular sieve with pores larger than 1 nanometer and the invention of supported aqueous-phase catalysts; each of these accomplishments opens up a new and potentially important area in catalytic science and technology, and also has implications for separations technology and environmental control.
For his work leading to the development of recombinant DNA technologies, and for his current research which has illuminated cellular and molecular mechanisms used to regulate animal behavior. These basic studies will lead to a better understanding of the molecular basis of brain function and should, in the future, help in the understanding of major psychiatric illnesses.
For innovative research at the interface of chemistry and biology, both in the development of new approaches for the study of molecular recognition and catalysis and in the application of these studies to the design of selective biological catalysts.
For outstanding contributions to economic research on unemployment, taxation of capital, savings behavior and macroeconomic activity. His work combines powerful analytic insights and imaginative econometric methods aimed at subjects of fundamental National importance.
For her imaginative and significant work in bioinorganic chemistry. Her use of small inorganic molecules to recognize and modify DNA sites in very specific ways has led to two major discoveries--enantiomeric selectivity in binding t DNA helices of different handedness, and Z-DNA "punctuation" at the end of genes--with important implications for drug design and for the theory of gene expression.
For his revitalization of the foundations of mathematics, his penetrating investigations into the Godel incompleteness phenomena, and his fundamental contributions to virtually all areas of mathematical logic.
For his contributions to our understanding of the development of the nervous system. His imaginative choice of model systems and modern technologies are enabling him to discover how individual nerve cells acquire their unique identities and interact with the appropriate cells during embryogenesis.
For devising a novel procedure for introducing virtually any gene into mammalian cells. Gene transfer now permits the analysis of the mechanisms regulating the expression of genes in an appropriate cellular environment. This information is prerequisite to a rational approach towards gene therapy.
For showing that fundamental conformational principles can be used in organic synthesis to describe nonrigid molecular arrays and for the design of chemical reactions which use such arrays to control the three-dimensional structure of flexible molecules.
For his contributions to the understanding of the basic structure of matter through experiments that discovered and explored an entirely new collection of subatomic particles. The experiments led to the interpretation of the new particles as being composed of simpler constituents, possessing a new property of matter.
For his outstanding research on Precambrian biotas. His work on these delicate and ancient fossil microorganisms will contribute significantly to the knowledge of the origin of life and the evolution of the earliest known biotas of the world.
For his research in Fourier analysis, partial differential equations and several complex variables which have brought fresh insight and renewed vigor to classical areas of mathematics and contributed signally to the advancement of modern mathematical analysis.