Rhode Island Science and Technology Advisory Council (STAC)

Making Innovation Central to Rhode Island's Future Gina M. Raimondo, Governor

Rhode Island Biologist Receives National Science Foundation Waterman Award

Published on May 12, 2011

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has named Brown University's Casey Dunn as the recipient of this year's Alan T. Waterman award which recognizes outstanding young investigators. Dunn will receive $500,000 and will utilize recent federally funded research infrastructure investments such as upgraded DNA sequencing tools and scientific computing infrastructure to advance his research.

Dunn's research involves genome analyses to better understand relationships between groups of animals. He investigates the origins of biological complexity through work with deep-sea creatures called siphonophores. His research holds clues about how complex multicellular organisms, including humans, were formed and how evolution has produced a diversity of life.

The lab primarily studies morphology, a branch of biology that deals with the form and structure of animals. Research there also pursues learning about the actual history of life on Earth, as well as the general properties of evolution that have contributed to life's historical patterns. The type of questions the lab asks require marine, laboratory and computational work.

Dunn is the tenth scientist in the biological sciences category to be honored with the Waterman Award in its 36-year history. The annual Waterman award recognizes an outstanding young researcher in any field of science or engineering supported by NSF. Candidates may not be older than 35, or seven years beyond receiving a doctorate on the year of nomination and must stand out for their individual achievements. The selection committee is made up of 12 appointed members from academia and industry.

In addition to conducting his research, Dunn has created a popular website that reveals the unexpected world of deep-sea animals through innovative animation, podcasts and text. The site has been featured by various media, including National Public Radio's Science Friday website. He also has just co-authored a book to teach scientists how to work with large datasets, entitled "Practical Computing for Biologists," published by Sinauer Associates, Inc.

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