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Amdam named ‘Outstanding Investigator’


July 23, 2007

Gro Amdam, an assistant professor in ASU’s School of Life Sciences who heads social insect studies in laboratories at ASU and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, is one of 20 researchers who earned the distinction of being named “Outstanding Young Investigator” from the Research Council of Norway.

Known in Norway as the “Yngre Fremragende Forskere” award, this major research-funding program “is designed to enable talented young researchers within all disciplines to realize their potential and achieve international excellence in research.”
Amdam will receive the U.S. equivalent of about $1.6 million over four years from this award to support her research in understanding the genetic and physiological basis of life history regulation in honeybees at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences’ Department of Animal and Aquacultural Sciences.

“The funds awarded through the Norwegian Outstanding Young Investigator program are more substantial than what is commonly granted to young investigators,” Amdam says. “This gives the awardees unique opportunities to build strong research programs early on.”
According to the council, of the 179 applicants, the 20 selected as Outstanding Young Investigators range in age from 25 to 41, and women researchers represent 40 percent of the group.

Arvid Hallen, the director general of the Research Council of Norway, says this search specifically encouraged female researchers.
“We have waited for an increased proportion of women to be recruited at the doctorate level in Norway to provide us with a greater number of accomplished and talented women researchers,” Hallen says.

The Research Council of Norway was established in 1993 and charged with the “promotion and support of Norwegian basic and applied research in all areas of science, technology, medicine and the humanities.” The Outstanding Young Investigator award was given only once before, in 2003.

This Norwegian award is one of two recent honors for ASU’s Amdam. In June, she was chosen by the Pew Charitable Trusts as a Pew Scholar in the biomedical sciences.

Amdam has made key discoveries in the genetic, physiological and behavioral mechanisms underlying division of labor, caste development, and has advanced understanding around the evolution of social life strategies, including aging, in social insects. Since 2006, her work, primarily using the honeybee as a model organism, has been published in professional journals as varied as Nature, Science, Experimental Gerontology, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), Behavioural Brain Research, Public Library of Science (PLoS) Biology and Advances in Cancer Research.

“Dr. Amdam’s research is at the cutting edge of theory and empirical studies of life history evolution and will have a broad impact on our understanding of the effects of social environments on aging,” says Robert Page, director of the School of Life Sciences and a fellow honeybee researcher in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at ASU.

To hear Amdam talk about her research, visit the School of Life Science’s Web page for K-12, titled “Ask-a-Biologist,” at http://askabiologist.asu.edu/podcasts.