UW News

October 2, 2019

Abigail Swann on Science News’ list of 10 young scientists to watch

UW News

woman in blue dress by tree

Abigail SwannMark Stone/University of Washington

The University of Washington’s Abigail Swann is honored by Science News on its list of 10 promising early- and mid-career scientists. Read about all the SN 10 2019 winners who were announced Oct. 2.

Each scientist included on the list is age 40 or younger and was selected by Science News staff for their potential to shape the science of the future. Each was originally nominated for consideration by a Nobel laureate, recently elected member of the National Academy of Sciences or, for the first time, a scientist previously named to the SN 10 list.

Swann, an associate professor of atmospheric sciences and of biology, studies how plants influence the climate at global and geologic timescales, and how larger climate shifts influence vegetation. One recent study looked at how large-scale tree loss can affect climate across North America.

“I am, of course, honored to have been chosen,” Swann said. “In particular it is humbling to be chosen for a broad award such as this one, which is not specific to a single scientific discipline.”

Swann was also named the inaugural winner of the $1,000 Jon C. Graff, Ph.D. Prize for Excellence in Science Communications. She was selected “for her mastery of conveying complex ideas with clarity.” The selection committee also considered “the scientists’ use of media, acknowledgement of scientific research as iterative and ability to communicate the long-term value of their work.”

The October issue of the magazine includes profiles of the 10 winners. The cover shows a cartoon version of each of the honorees doing their research.

In her research, Swann “builds whole planets, some of them very odd and all of them simulations inside a computer,” reads the profile of Swann. “She has turned her garage creativity to developing computer models for testing ideas about Earth’s atmosphere.”

“We so often cover the results of scientists’ work, but not how they did that work, or what motivates them through the long, often frustrating research process,” said Nancy Shute, editor in chief of Science News magazine. “We’re thrilled to be able to recognize the work of these outstanding scientists, and to give people a glimpse into their remarkable lives.”

Shayan Oveis Gharan, an assistant professor in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, was named to the list in 2016.