In tribute to the character and accomplishments of Nat Sternberg, a thesis prize has been established in his name. Its purpose is to encourage young scientists who give early evidence of perpetuating Nat Sternberg's salient qualities, e.g. his skill, insight, rigor, and dedication to science.

For 2018 the Nat Sternberg Thesis Prize will be awarded to one male and one female scientist for outstanding Ph.D. work in the field of bacterial molecular biology. The award will be presented at the annual Molecular Genetics of Bacteria and Phages meeting, at which time the recipient will give a presentation about his or her work. The amount of the award will be ~ $750, with the exact amount to be determined by the award committee and the fund manager. The award will provide a travel allowance in addition to the prize and registration for the meeting will be waived. A brief introduction of the year's winner and the nature of the prize will be presented at the meeting by the Award Committee Chair or a designate. The 2018 meeting will be held in Madison, Wisconsin from Monday, August 6 through Friday, August 10, 2018. Meeting information is available at:


Nominees must have completed and successfully defended his or her Ph.D. thesis within a 12-month period prior to June 1 of the year of the award (between June 1, 2017 and May 31, 2018). Winners will be required to give a presentation based on his/her thesis work at the annual Molecular Genetics of Bacteria and Phages meeting.


Nominations must come from the thesis advisor or a member of the thesis examination committee. Nominators should send a single collated pdf file containing the following items:

          (i) brief cover letter
          (ii) candidate's curriculum vitae
          (iii) a copy of the thesis abstract that indicates the significance of the work to the field
          (iv) reprints or preprints of articles based on the thesis material
          (v) three letters of reference, one of which must be from the thesis advisor.

The file should be named as follows: LastName_FirstName_2018.pdf indicating in the cover letter the member of the Award Committee whose areas of interest most closely corresponds to the topic of the thesis (see below).

Nominations must be received by 5pm EST on 5/15/18.
Nomination submission for the Nat L. Sternberg Thesis Prize is now closed.

Members of the Award Committee for 2018:

Petra Levin (Chair), Washington University, St. Louis

Gigi Storz, National Institutes of Health

Marvin Whiteley, University of Texas, Austin

Christopher Hayes, University of California Santa Barbara

Jade Wang, University of Wisconsin

Esther Angert, Cornell University


Individual and corporate donations to the Nat L. Sternberg Thesis Prize endowment fund are welcome and may be made by contacting Petra Levin (

We acknowledge the generosity of DuPont Merck Pharmaceutical Company for supplying the initial seed money, and of the many private individuals who have provided additional support.


Nat Sternberg belonged to that rare breed of scientists whose understanding of biology is at once wide-ranging and profound. Throughout a career that began in phage biology, Nat kept adding to his activities and interests without relinquishing the earlier ones, often creating remarkable amalgams of old and new. Starting his studies with T4, he went on to l and then took up the challenge of P1 phage, largely unexplored at that time. Nat proceeded to illuminate nearly every conceivable aspect of P1s alternative ways of life: immunity, site-specific recombination, plasmid and lytic replication, partitioning, DNA methylation, packaging, transducing particle generation, among others. When Nat became interested in difficult and fundamental problems in eukaryotic biology, he created elegant ways to use a variety of microbiological systems for their resolution. Among the sophisticated tools that Nat devised, his P1 cloning system for large genomic DNA is notable for the number and ingenuity of its features.

Several eukaryotic topics engaged Nat’s attention, including recombination, genome mapping, and cancer biology. Characteristically, his last publication, an insightful study of the cellular toxicity of tumoricidal intercalating drugs, is based on simple tests with E. coli. The topic had particular significance for Nat, who engaged in a long and debilitating battle with cancer. Nat's love of science was a sustaining force throughout that struggle. Nat Sternberg died on September 26, 1995.

Nat was a scientist's scientist, possessed of extraordinary energy, creativity, wit, and, above all, generosity of spirit. In honor of these qualities and of the person in whom they were combined, former associates of Nat, Lynn Enquist and Thomas Silhavy, conceived of the Nat L. Sternberg Thesis Prize. The annual prize was first offered in 1996.