Virginia's Outstanding Scientist Awards Program was created by the Science Museum of Virginia and the Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia in November of 1984. The first awards were presented on March 20, 1985, by Governor Charles S. Robb.
In 2016, two new award categories were introduced and the program was renamed the Virginia's Outstanding STEM Awards. In 2018, an award for a Virginia educator was added. Award categories include Virginia’s Outstanding Scientist, alongside the new categories: STEM Catalyst, STEM Conductor and STEM Phenom.
Virginia's Outstanding Scientist honors those scientists who, through their research and commitment to science, have made a recent contribution to basic scientific research that extends the boundaries of any field of science.
STEM Catalyst: Virginia citizen or small business whose passion, ingenuity, and efforts inspire others to recognize the power of STEM to improve our world.
STEM Conductor: Virginia educator who has created enriching experiences that inspire the next generation of STEM enthusiasts.
STEM Phenom: A Virginia student that helps inspire fellow students to better understand and appreciate STEM in their everyday lives. This student is an inspiration to peers* helping drive a passion and interest in STEM and STEM fields.
*What is meant by ‘inspiration to peers’?
The goal of the Museum and these awards are to make STEM accessible to everyone. For the Phenom Award we are looking for examples that go beyond the applicant/nominee’s academic recognitions, awards and media attention, but rather what they are doing to personally inspire and engage others. We are looking for examples of how the individual is creating opportunities for others to learn about, engage or learn about STEM outside of the formal classroom environment. Are they creating unique opportunities within their school, community or region? Are there examples of clubs, meetings, events or speaking engagements where the nominee interacted with audiences that may otherwise not have this experience? We are looking for qualitative data – not quantitative, meaning we are hoping to see, read or hear stories on how the nominee may have positively impacted a peer audience rather than just looking at numbers, contact hours or statistics of potential viewership or even impact via survey results. We want to know more about leaders helping peers and other youth see how STEM is part of their everyday life and how they may make those connections in and out of the school setting.