Cottrell Scholars

TREE Award

TREE (Transformational Research and Excellence in Education) Award

The TREE award is designed to recognize the outstanding research and educational accomplishments of members of the community of Cottrell Scholars.  Additionally, the award serves to encourage the improvement of science education at American universities and colleges and raise the national profile of the Cottrell Scholars.

The TREE award consists of an unrestricted $20,000 award sent to the awardee institution on behalf of the award recipient’s educational and scholarly work.  The recipient is encouraged to use these funds to foster advancements in their research and educational accomplishments.  An additional $5,000 award is provided to the recipient to support lectures and travel to other institutions to help broadly communicate the recipient’s innovative research and educational accomplishments. TREE awards are made by nomination.

The TREE award is highlighted in two venues.  TREE awardees are invited to give a plenary talk at the summer Cottrell Scholars Conference and a session or reception is organized at a professional society meeting in honor of the awardee.  RCSA also provides funds for promotion of the award in professional journals.


Nominees must be at least 6 years beyond the year of their Cottrell Scholar award and hold a faculty appointment at a research university or primarily undergraduate institution in the United States. For the 2017 competition, eligibility will be limited to Cottrell Scholars who received their award in 2011 or earlier. No submissions are accepted from Cottrell Scholars who have already received a TREE award.

Nomination and Application Processes

TREE submissions start with a brief nomination from a Cottrell Scholar or a nominee’s non-Cottrell Scholar colleague who is knowledgeable of the nominee’s teacher-scholar activities. Self-nominations are also accepted. Nominations must include the name of the Cottrell Scholar who is nominated, her/his current institutional affiliation and a short paragraph (up to 150 words) describing why the nominee is highly qualified for a TREE award. No nomination form is provided. All nominations must be sent to RCSA Senior Program Director Silvia Ronco ( by close of business on November 1, 2017.

After the nomination deadline, all nominees are contacted by RCSA and invited to upload a complete application package into our online submission system. Complete application packages contain the following materials: (i) a two-page bio sketch listing the most significant publications, awards and honors; and (ii) a four-page essay that has two components of equal weight.  The first part of the essay must describe the nominee’s Transformational Research, which could be a single ground-breaking publication or a larger body of work that has had a transformative impact on a field of research. The second part must describe the nominee’s Excellence in Education, which again could be a single example (e.g., curriculum transformation, outreach program, textbook) or a larger body of work (e.g., continuous national leadership) that clearly distinguishes the accomplishments of the nominee.  Educational accomplishments that reach beyond the nominee’s home institution will be considered as particularly meritorious.

Two support letters must be provided for the TREE award.  One letter must come from either the chairperson of the nominee’s department or other institutional colleague and the second letter must come from a single Cottrell Scholar. Support letters should highlight the exceptional research and educational accomplishments of the nominee that clearly identify the candidate as an outstanding teacher scholar who merits a TREE award – an individual whose research and teaching activities have broad impact in her/his disciplinary field and in the community of students they serve. In depth support letters which make a compelling case for the impact of both research and education accomplishments are necessary for a successful submission for a TREE award. For a complete list of Cottrell Scholars click here.

Support letters can be attached to the application package and submitted as a single pdf file using the online system; or the support letters can be emailed separately to Silvia Ronco at,

Completed applications, including support letters, are due by close of business on December 1, 2017. 2018 TREE Awards will be announced in March 2018.

Selection Process

A selection committee composed of senior Cottrell Scholars and members of the RCSA scientific staff reviews applications and makes recommendations to the RCSA President.  Final selection is approved by members of the RCSA Board of Directors.

TREE Awards

Seth Cohen, chemistry, University of California, San Diego
David Ginger, chemistry, University of Washington

Rigoberto Hernandez, chemistry, Georgia Tech
Vincent Rotello, chemistry, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Catherine Murphy, chemistry, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Keivan Stassun, astrophysics, Vanderbilt University
Mats Selen, physics, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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