ATLANTA—The National Science Foundation (NSF) has named Georgia State University Associate Professor Natalie King one of the 2023 recipients of its Alan T. Waterman Award, the nation's highest honor for early-career scientists and engineers.
This is the second year the NSF has chosen to honor three researchers with the award, which recognizes outstanding early-career U.S. science or engineering researchers who demonstrate exceptional individual achievements in NSF-supported fields.
King, a faculty member in Georgia State’s College of Education & Human Development, focuses her research on advancing Black girls' achievements in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, community-based STEM programs and the role of curriculum in fostering equity in science teaching and learning. This award recognizes King's groundbreaking scholarship in science, technology, engineering and mathematics education that transcends disciplinary boundaries and directly impacts local and global communities. Her exceptional research achievements have had a remarkable impact on the advancement of Black girls in science and the use of research-practice partnerships to drive K-12 instruction and helped increase STEM teacher diversity.
"My laboratory is in the community. The problems that I seek to solve are societal, practical, systemic, structural and complex,” King said. “My research challenges the capitalist and workforce development agendas for encouraging Black girls' engagement in STEM education and reframes the STEM disciplines as a mechanism to promote personal development, academic growth and social justice.”
For more than a decade, she has directed out-of-school STEM programs as founder and executive director of I AM STEM, which has served more than 2,000 children across 22 states, Canada and the Caribbean.
King has received numerous NSF awards, including an NSF CAREER grant in 2020. She is currently serving as the principal investigator in an NSF Robert Noyce Scholarship project that seeks to diversify the STEM teaching workforce in high need school districts with a specific emphasis on Black males.
"To be recognized as a young researcher who is influencing the field of science and engineering is an absolute honor," King said. "Receiving the Waterman Award signifies that my contributions as a science educator, cultural broker and community advocate matter and are worthy of recognition. I believe that this will resonate with many Black and Brown scholars, STEM educators and scientists who are committed to serving their local communities."
NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan said that pioneering accomplishments like King’s are what the Waterman Award was created to recognize.
"I am thrilled to congratulate this year's Waterman awardees, three outstanding scientists who are courageously tackling some of the most challenging societal problems through their ingenuity and innovative mindset," Panchanathan said. "I look forward to their tremendous contributions in the future."
In addition to a medal, King and her fellow awardees will each receive $1 million over five years for research in their chosen field of science. The Waterman Award will be presented to all recipients at a ceremony during the National Science Board meeting, which will be held in Washington, D.C., on May 9.