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U professor to receive 2022 Leonardo Award

Nalini Nadkarni honored for creativity and curiosity that inspires others.

The Leonardo, a museum of innovation and creativity in Salt Lake City, UT, awarded the 2022 Leonardo Award to Nalini Nadkarni, professor emerita in the School of Biological Sciences. Nadkarni will receive the award at a ceremony on April 14, 2022.

“I feel honored to receive this award from an institution that so strongly inspires and supports those who cross disciplinary boundaries to innovate solutions to todays problems,” Nadkarni says. “The Leonardo creates hopeful ways to greet the world.”

“Dr. Nadkarni pioneered the study of Costa Rican rain forest canopies,” according to a release from the Leonardo. Nadkarni first ascended to the canopy in 1981, followed by dozens of other ecological studies to the present. “A lifelong interest and concern for trees led Nadkarni to an academic career to study and understand trees, and to innovate activities and programs that raise awareness of the importance of trees and nature in others,” the release continues.

Making connections between the ecological importance of forests and the beauty of trees in nature with people who have no access to nature led to Dr. Nadkarni’s pioneering work to bring science education, conservation projects, and nature imagery to the incarcerated. “In 2003, she co-created the Sustainability in Prison Program in Washington State, and in 2011, created the Initiative to bring Science Programs to the Incarcerated (INSPIRE). These programs bring multiple benefits for inmates, scientists, correctional institutions, and the community.”

The Leonardo Award highlights those whose “curiosity and learning inspire others.” Past recipients include Merit Medical founder, chairman and CEO Fred Lampropoulos, a U alum; environmental advocate and international action star Jackie Chan; U professor and bioengineer Steven Jacobsen, who died in 2016; and Chris Johnson, distinguished professor of computer science at the U.