Laura Lindenfeld, executive director of the Alda Center for Communicating Science and dean of Stony Brook’s School of Communication and Journalism, again served on the selection committee for this year’s Golden Goose Awards.
The Golden Goose Awards, hosted annually by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, recognizes federally funded research that may sound obscure or silly but that has led to major breakthroughs.
“The Golden Goose demonstrates in such an impactful way that the path to discoveries often doesn’t follow a straight line. It embodies the spirit of innovation we promote at Stony Brook, and we have a great representative of the university on that committee in Dean Lindenfeld,” said Carl Lejuez, Provost and Executive Vice President.
Every year, AAAS solicits and receives award nominations from across the United States. Nomination packets are extensive and include the story of how the discovery came to be and its impact as well as scientists’ CVs, citations and other scholarly work.
Lindenfeld serves as one of several members of the selection committee and, like her colleagues, was responsible for reviewing each nomination in its entirety. The committee met several times over the course of the year to discuss the nominations and determine the winners. In addition to Lindenfeld, the committee comprised leading academics and researchers from around the county, including the publisher Elsevier, the University of Pennsylvania and Vanderbilt University.
“The scientific process is about exploration; it’s a tremendously valuable process that aims to help us describe the world and how it functions,” said Lindenfeld. “It sometimes ends up leading to remarkable discoveries that transform how we live and sustain ourselves. The Golden Goose Awards are important because they value and honor the basic research process, out of which amazing and positive consequences can come.”
The awards honor the importance of basic research, which aims to investigate unknown phenomena and advance current knowledge.
Every year, three awards are given either to individual scientists or teams of researchers. The first award went to Mark Akeson, Daniel Branton and David Deamer, whose roadside sketches led to the discovery of a genetic sequencing method that has allowed for several discoveries. The second went to Mary-Dell Chilton, who discovered that bacterial tumors in plants alter the plant’s genes and used these bacteria to create a widely used gene editing method. The final award went to Paul Siegel whose chicken breeding technique set the foundation for current chicken raising and breeding practices.
“I think it’s easy for people to think ‘Oh science is boring. I can’t really understand it.’ This was the antithesis of that,” Lindenfeld said. “People were celebrating science and its impact, as well as the scientists themselves.”
Lindenfeld has served on the Golden Goose committee since 2021. She was invited in part because of the Alda Center’s reputation as the leading science communication training and research organization in the US.
In addition to the Golden Goose committee, Lindenfeld was a moderator for the Nobel Prize Summit organized by the U.S National Academy of Sciences in Washington DC and also contributed to an obesity review that was recently published.
Lindenfeld holds a PhD in culture studies from the University of California, Davis and has published over 50 peer-reviewed articles, chapters and reviews. Her book, Feasting Our Eyes: Food Films and Cultural Identity in the United States, was published by Columbia University Press.
Story by Menka Suresh, science communication graduate student