Community Service Award

This award will be awarded to members of SMBE who have provided exceptional service to SMBE and the broader scientific community. The term "service" applies broadly to include specific service to the community (such as to the SMBE journals, the Council or annual meetings) and also service that includes scientific outreach and education. The prize includes a cash award as well as reimbursement to attend the annual meeting. This award will be made periodically and initiated by the SMBE council. 

The SMBE Community Service Award was not awarded in 2018, 2020, 2021 and 2024.

2023 SMBE Community Service Award Joint Winners: Mary O’Connell and Beth Shapiro

Council is awarding Mary O’Connell and Beth Shapiro this award in profound appreciation of their services to us especially during 2021’s first online annual meeting.

Mary O’Connell is Professor and Chair of Molecular Evolution in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Nottingham, UK. Her interests span phylogenomics, evolution of proteins and their regulators, and evolutionary theory. She gained her degree in Biotechnology with Chemistry from the National university of Ireland Maynooth (NUIM), and went on to complete her PhD on rates of protein change across animals also at NUIM. Following a brief postdoctoral fellowship on genomic conflict and imprinting in plants and mammals at UCC in sunny county Cork, she gained a tenured academic post and established her research group at Dublin City University Ireland. During her time as Fulbright Scholar at Harvard she continued to work on protein adaptation and function in Scott Edwards group at the OEB, and there she began to develop stronger connections between her computational predictions and functional work. She was named “250 Great Minds” Academic Fellow at the University of Leeds, UK focussing on functional comparative genomics. Whilst there she expanded her research group and also co-founded the LeedsOmics research institute ( to support bioinformatics and computational biology research - significantly increasing grant success rates and facilities for her local community of researchers. She was elected as a Fellow of the Linnean Society in 2017, and in 2019 was appointed Scientific Research Associate of the Natural History Museum London. She is passionate about open data and open science and in 2018 she was appointed to the scientific advisory board of the European Nucleotide Archive and has been chair of the board since 2021. She has been a member of SMBE for more than 20 years, and has contributed to the society in a wide range of ways, from organising symposia, co-organising the SMBE annual meetings in 2012 in Dublin Ireland and again in 2021 (our first virtual annual meeting), and she has contributed as scientific committee member for SMBE 2019. She has served as an associate editor for GBE and is an associate editor for MBE. She was elected council member in 2019 with responsibilities for mentorship awards, satellite and regional meeting awards etc, with a goal of strengthening our global community and enriching our science.

Dr. Shapiro is Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California Santa Cruz and an Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Dr. Shapiro’s research develops new methods to recover genomic data from the remains of long-dead organisms, and uses these data along with genomes from living species to test hypotheses about how species, populations, and ecosystems evolve. Her work has earned her several awards, including Packard and Searle Fellowships and a MacArthur Prize. Author of two award-winning popular science books and frequent public speaker, Dr. Shapiro takes great interest in talking about science to people of all backgrounds and interests, in particular to break down barriers of communication surrounding controversial topics like genetic engineering and de-extinction. She has been an active member of SMBE since 2003 and served as councilor from 2019-2021.  She also served as Associate Editor for MBE from 2006-2018 and has been serving as Senior Editor since 2018.

2022 SMBE Community Service Award Winner: Christopher Lapine

Council is selecting Christopher Lapine for this award in 2022 in profound appreciation of his services to us over the years and especially during our online annual meeting in 2021.

Chris has served as the SMBE Business Manager since 2014 and has worked with SMBE Council to ensure that all society business matters, directives, and membership/ conference services have been provided in the utmost professional, friendly, and expedient, manner.

Chris is Senior Manager of Meeting Management Services at KnowledgeWorks Global, Ltd. and works closely with six other scientific/academic societies in addition to SMBE.  Chris has held a lifelong passion for science and considers his role within SMBE to be an intellectually and professionally fulfilling experience.

In his free time, Chris enjoys spending time with his family on travels around Planet Earth, playing with his dogs, and loves cold, dark, evenings when the stars and celestial objects shine brightly through his favorite Dobsonian reflector telescope. Chris also has a proclivity to collect action figures from the 1970s-1980s (it’s his way of keeping the “kid in him” alive).

Chris looks forward to continuing to work with SMBE in the years to come and helping to ensure that SMBE flourishes & continues to be a place where its members can share relevant scientific data and information for the benefit of all humanity.

2019 SMBE Community Service Award Winner: Cathy Kennedy

Although Cathy is not a molecular evolutionist (her PhD from the University of Leicester was in animal behaviour), she has contributed significantly to the SMBE community through her service to the Society.

Cathy’s association with SMBE began in 2002 when, as a publisher for Oxford University Press (OUP), she oversaw MBE’s transition to OUP at a time when electronic journal publishing was in its infancy. She then worked with SMBE to launch GBE, which at that time was the only society-owned open-access online-only journal in the world. Now GBE is a thriving, profitable entity and there are a number of copycat journals; but it was a leap of faith for OUP to take the risk and Cathy was the one who made it happen.

MBE and GBE provide SMBE’s primary source of income. Their growing revenues have helped the Society to provide a huge range of awards and benefits that members now enjoy. Cathy is particularly pleased that these include measures to ensure women, parents, carers, and younger scientists from all over the world are able to attend SMBE meetings.

Since retirement from OUP, Cathy has continued to help SMBE - as a consultant on issues related to the publication of our two journals; identifying and negotiating a long-term conference organizing company for SMBE’s annual meetings; and serving as an ‘institutional memory’ for the society. Cathy is still available to answer questions, either about past practices of SMBE or with insights into the publishing world.

2017 SMBE Community Service Award Winner: Sudhir Kumar, Temple University 

Sudhir Kumar has been an early leader in exploring the theoretical and empirical intersection of evolutionary biology with computational biology, and forging accessible tools that allow researchers from diverse backgrounds to harness the analytical power of modern computational biology. With a background in Biological Sciences and Electrical & Electronics Engineering from Birla Institute of Technology and Sciences, he completed a Ph.D. and postdoctoral work in Genetics at Pennsylvania State University, mentored by Dr. Masatoshi Nei. During this period, he worked to develop the first version of Molecular Evolutionary Genetics Analysis (MEGA), a freely-accessible software package that has been maintained and improved over more than 20 years since its release. The enduring popularity of MEGA results from Kumar’s responsiveness to community needs and dedication to accessibility and scientific rigor. He has made numerous contributions to the mathematical theory of phylogenetics through advances in estimating evolutionary distances, inference of divergence times, and algorithms for constructing phylogenetic trees. Kumar and his laboratory continue to work actively on improving phylogenetic theory and applications to the growing field of phylomedicine, which explores disease via phylogenetic methods and makes predictions informed by evolutionary biology. Sudhir Kumar is currently the Laura H. Carnell Professor and the Director of the Institute for Genomics and Evolutionary Medicine at Temple University. He has served the SMBE community as elected Secretary, webmaster, President, chair of the organizing committee of the SMBE annual meeting in 2006 in Tempe, Arizona, and is currently serving as Editor-in-Chief of the society journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.

2016 SMBE Community Service Award Winner: Bill Martin

As a scientist, Bill Martin has furthered our understanding of life's early history with contributions to the study of physiology, gene transfer and endosymbiosis in microbial evolution. He has served SMBE for well over a decade. As the Editor-in-Chief of MBE 2003-2008, he fostered growth of the journal and the society while helping to usher SMBE into the age of electronic publishing. In 2009 he founded SMBE’s second journal, Genome Biology and Evolution, which was the first society-owned, open-access journal in the biological sciences.  He has served as the Editor-in-Chief ofGBE since its inception, overseeing the journal's contribution to the society and its benefit to the field. Bill is a fellow in the American Academy for Microbiology, a member of EMBO, and has been Chair of the Institute of Molecular Evolution at the University of Dusseldorf since 1999.

2015 SMBE Community Service Award Winner: Brian Golding

Brian Golding for his valuable and ongoing service not only to SMBE but to the broader evolutionary biology community for his pioneering development and maintenance of the evoldir list serve.

Award Information

Eligibility:  All members of the SMBE community are eligible for this prize. Members of the SMBE Council are not eligible for any awards during their years on council or in the year immediately following their service.

Nomination:  Nomination will be an open process that begins with a call to SMBE members, typically early in the calendar year.

All nominations will include:

  • A nomination letter that includes a recommendation for the candidate.

  • A one-page statement summarizing the candidate’s work and its fit to the award. 
  • A CV of the candidate.
  • A second recommendation letter.

Process: The President will convene an awards committee who will choose among those nominated.  It may also choose not to award the prize if no suitable candidates are nominated. The materials should be compiled into a single PDF file, and should be emailed to by a date to be confirmed.

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