Brown University botanist Erika Edwards has earned a Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering. She’s invited to the White House this spring to accept the honor.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Erika Edwards, Brown University associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, has won the federal government's highest award for scientists and engineers in the early stages of their independent research careers, the Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering, the White House announced Feb. 18. The White House will welcome Edwards and the nation’s 105 other honorees in the spring.

The National Science Foundation nominated Edwards. In its press release, the NSF credited her “for innovative research leading to exciting breakthroughs in understanding the drivers of plant evolutionary innovation, and particularly the evolution of plant form and photosynthesis systems, and for engaging public outreach on plant biology.”

Edwards, who directs Brown’s herbarium, said she was honored to have been recognized.

“What makes this so special for me is that we do not work on human health, or medicine... we are not engineers; we are botanists,” she said. “My lab is an evolutionary biology lab, and our primary focus is on understanding how different plant species are related to one another, and how they have adapted to climate change and the emergence of new environments over deep evolutionary time. It is wonderful to have this type of science recognized as important for humanity and relevant to our current challenges. We have a lot to learn from history, and that certainly includes natural history - nature is full of inspiring and elegant solutions to big problems.”

In recent years some of Edwards’ studies have concerned the development of leaf structures and genetic patterns in plant evolution.