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Dr. Marcia McNutt, 30th Nevada Medalist

marciamcnutt forwebThe Desert Research Institute (DRI) proudly announces the selection of Dr. Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences and chair of the National Research Council, as its 2017 DRI Nevada Medalist. 

Established in 1988 to acknowledge outstanding achievement in the fields of science and engineering, the DRI Nevada Medal is the highest scientific honor in the state. The 30th DRI Nevada Medal award will be presented by the DRI Foundation during events planned in Reno and Las Vegas in September, 2017.

A distinguished geophysicist, Dr. McNutt’s research focuses on marine geophysics, where she has published more than 100 peer-reviewed scientific articles and helped develop a variety of remote sensing techniques to understand the origin of clusters of volcanoes in the middle of tectonic plates.. From 2013 to 2016, she served as editor-in-chief of the Science family of journals, prior to which she served as director of the U.S. Geological Survey from 2009 to 2013, during which time USGS responded to a number of major disasters, including the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

“I am grateful for the recognition of the Nevada Medal not just for all that it means to me personally, but also because it validates the concept that one can forego one’s own personal research career and still have impact through leadership and service to science and the nation,” said Dr. McNutt.

As the first female president of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), an independent organization conceived by President Abraham Lincoln and chartered by Congress with providing independent, objective advice to the nation on matters related to science and technology, McNutt serves on the forefront of science education and communication to the highest levels in US government.

Before joining the USGS in 2009, McNutt served as president and chief executive officer of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), in Moss Landing, California. During her time at MBARI, the institution became a leader in developing biological and chemical sensors for remote ocean deployment, installed the first deep-sea cabled observatory in U.S. waters, and advanced the integration of artificial intelligence into autonomous underwater vehicles for complex undersea missions. 

Her previous honors include membership in the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She holds honorary doctoral degrees from the Colorado College, the University of Minnesota, Monmouth University, and the Colorado School of Mines. In 1988, she was awarded the American Geophysical Union’s Macelwane Medal for research accomplishments by a young scientist, and she received the Maurice Ewing Medal in 2007 for her contributions to deep-sea exploration.

“Dr. McNutt is a true inspiration,” said DRI Acting President, Dr. Robert Gagosian. “She represents the extraordinary achievements that can be accomplished and the significant impact one can have on science and the public’s perception of how to solve our most difficult  problems and the greatest challenges facing our planet and all of humankind. She is an exceptional mentor and has shaped the careers of so many people with her desire to instill in people her love for science.”

The 30th annual DRI Nevada Medal events are scheduled for Monday, September 25th, 2017 at the Peppermill Resort Spa Casino in Reno; and Wednesday, September 27th, 2017 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. 

Over the last 29 years, the DRI Foundation has honored individuals in science and engineering whose prominent research contributions have ranged from mapping the human genome and explaining protein folding to discovering  hydrothermal vents from the ocean floor off the Galapagos and advancing our knowledge of archaeological discoveries across the globe.

Recent recipients of the DRI Nevada Medal include Duke University professor and unmanned systems expert Dr. Missy Cummings; NASA astrobiologist and Mars Science Laboratory mission member Dr. Chris McKay; and National Geographic Explorer and University of California, San Diego research scientist Dr. Albert Yu-Min Lin. A full list of all 29 award recipients is available online at www.dri.edu/nvmedal.

The DRI Nevada Medal award includes an eight-ounce minted medallion of .999 pure Nevada silver and $20,000 lecture honorarium.

Reserve Your Seat for the 2016 DRI Nevada Medal

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for the 29th DRI Nevada Medal Event. 

Welcome and thank you for helping us proudly honor Duke University Professor and former U.S. Navy Fighter Pilot, Dr. Mary Cummings for our 2016 Nevada Medal. Continuing its support for the third year in a row, the recognized world leader in data center and internet ecosystem design and operations, Switch SUPERNAP will be continuing its presenting sponsorship.

The 29th Annual DRI Nevada Medal Event in Reno will include a formal dinner and award ceremony, scheduled for Tuesday, April 12th, 2016 at the Peppermill Resort Spa Casino and Thursday, April 14th, 2016 at the Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. Both evenings will feature a cocktail hour beginning at 5:30 p.m., with the main event at 7 p.m.

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If you have questions, please contact DRI Development Administrator, Kenneth J. Adams (702-862-5497). For all other event questions, contact DRI Events Coordinator, Dawn Coots at (775) 674-7555 or e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

2016 Nevada Medal Sponsors

DRI and the DRI Foundation gratefully acknowledge the support we have received from the following sponsors: 

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Dr. Mary "Missy" Cummings, 29th Nevada Medalist

Dr. Mary “Missy” Cummings, Ph.D., has been selected as the Institute’s 2016 DRI Nevada Medalist. In the spring of 2016, the DRI Foundation will present Dr. Cummings with the 29th DRI Nevada Medal during special events planned in Reno and Las Vegas.

Missy Cummings DronesDr. Mary "Missy" Cummings, Ph.D. As the director of the Humans and Autonomy Lab at Duke University, Dr. Cummings leads a pioneering team of researchers and engineers focused on the complex interactions of human interaction with unmanned aerial systems (UAS), commonly known as drones; and the social and ethical implications of such new technologies that have the potential to dramatically impact both industry and humanity.

“I am deeply honored to receive this award which is a reflection not just on my efforts but on all my students and fellow researchers who struggled in the trenches for years to move unmanned aerial vehicles, aka UAVs or drones into the mainstream,” said Dr. Cummings. “It was exactly 10 years ago that an editor of a prestigious journal told me that UAV research was of little utility since they would never gain widespread acceptance. So this award represents an important milestone for both me and the larger UAV community.”

Dr. Cummings spent eleven years (1988–1999) as a naval officer and military pilot, earning the rank of lieutenant, and was one of the Navy's first female fighter pilots, flying an F/A-18 Hornet. Following a successful career in the military, she directed her passion for technology to academia and became a strong public advocate for the promotion of the responsible use of drone technology and related policies for both the military and the growing commercial and civilian industries.

She is currently an associate professor in the Duke University Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, the Duke Institute of Brain Sciences, and the Duke Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. She is also an affiliate professor with the University of Washington’s Aeronautics and Astronautics Department. She received her B.S. in Mathematics from the US Naval Academy in 1988, her M.S. in Space Systems Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School in 1994, and her Ph.D. in Systems Engineering from the University of Virginia in 2004.

“Innovation demands increased responsibility and public understanding,” said Dr. Stephen Wells, DRI President, “This is especially true in the case of autonomous systems and unmanned aerial systems. We are excited to honor Dr. Missy Cummings for her exceptional role as a champion of women in science and the military; and her work in advancing these new technologies and advocating for cutting-edge scientific research and responsible policy that will impact humanity for years to come.”

The 29th Annual DRI Nevada Medal Event in Reno will include a formal dinner and award ceremony, scheduled for Tuesday, April 12th, 2016 at the Peppermill Resort Spa Casino. The Las Vegas event will also include a formal dinner and award ceremony, scheduled for Thursday, April 14th, 2016 at the Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. Both evenings will feature a cocktail hour beginning at 5:30 p.m., with the main event at 7 p.m.

Dr. Cummings is the second engineer and fourth female research scientist and to receive the DRI Nevada Medal.

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