Schaal wins AIBS Distinguished Scientist Award

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) honored Barbara Schaal, PhD, the Mary-Dell Chilton Distinguished Professor in the Department of Biology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, with the 2011-12 AIBS Distinguished Scientist Award June 1.


Schaal is widely recognized for her pioneering research.

She was among the first to use molecular biology-based approaches to understand evolutionary processes in plants, and she has worked to advance our understanding of plant molecular systematics and population genetics.

Research in her laboratory also has addressed issues in conservation biology, including the loss of genetic variation in isolated plant populations and the origins of the important tropical food crop, cassava.

After learning that she had been selected to receive the distinguished scientist award, Schaal said, “it is a great honor and particularly meaningful coming from AIBS, which has done such a superb job of representing the diversity of biological sciences.”

In 2005, Schaal became the first woman to be elected vce president of the United States National Academy of Sciences, a post she still holds.

Since April 2009, Schaal has served on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

In addition to her research and current national service, Schaal also has served as the president of the Society for the Study of Evolution and the Botanical Society of America.

Schaal earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a doctorate from Yale University.

Prior to joining the WUSTL faculty, she was on the faculty at the University of Houston and The Ohio State University.

Schaal’s was one of three awards the AIBS made at the June 1 conference.

The 2011-12 AIBS Outstanding Service Award went to Thomas Lovejoy, PhD, University Professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at George Mason University and the Biodiversity Chair at The H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment; and the 2011-12 AIBS Education Award went to Diane Elbert-May, PhD, professor of plant biology at Michigan State University.

The awards were presented during an innovative AIBS conference held at The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Washington, D.C. Conference Center. The program brought about two dozen graduate students and post-doctoral scholars in the biological sciences together with the award recipients, members of the AIBS board of directors, and others for a unique, cross-generational conversation about the profession of biology.

The program enabled a diverse group of students, early career biologists, and mid- to late-career scientists to talk as equals, promoting an exchange of ideas and perspectives.