Kaplan Award in Comparative Morphology


The Botanical Society of America is soliciting applications for the Donald R. Kaplan Award in Comparative Morphology. Donald R. Kaplan was a leading researcher in the area of plant form, where he sought to deduce fundamental principles from comparative developmental morphology. He spent most of his professional career at the University of California Berkeley. Through his own work and the work of the many graduate students he mentored, he had a profound effect on the fields of plant development and structure. Donald Kaplan always encouraged his students to work independently, often on projects unrelated to his own research. He believed that students should publish their work independently, and rarely coauthored his students’ papers.

To promote research in plant comparative morphology, the Kaplan family has established an endowed fund, administered through the Botanical Society of America, to support the Ph.D. research of graduate students in this area. Research proposals should have a strong focus on plant comparative morphology, broadly interpreted to include comparative development and the evolution of form and function. Graduate students in other disciplines who wish to add plant comparative morphology approaches to their research are also encouraged to apply.

The annual award of up to $10,000 may be used to support equipment and supplies, travel for research and to attend meetings, and for summer support. Applicants and their advisors must be members of the Botanical Society of America and are advised to join the BSA if they are not already members to facilitate the application process. International students are welcome to apply. Graduate students must have advanced to candidacy or be at a comparable stage in their doctoral program.

Applications should be written in the form of a proposal that describes the motivation for the research, and how it fits into the student’s overall dissertation project. The proposal should include a description of the methods (no longer than one page), and a clear statement of the significance of the possible outcomes. Proposals should be single-spaced, and three to five pages in length including figures and a budget. The page limit does not refer to references or abstract. The abstract should be 500 words or less. Two letters of reference are required, including a letter from the student’s research supervisor. In keeping with the intent of the Kaplan family to promote the graduate student’s research independence, applicants, as well as their advisors, must indicate clearly how the proposed research differs in a substantial manner from the research program of the advisor. 

Applications will be evaluated by the Donald R. Kaplan Award Committee based on relevance to advancing research in plant comparative morphology and evidence that the award will allow the graduate student to undertake an independent research project. Motivation for the research, clarity of the research hypothesis, explanation of the methods to be used, and the connection between the objectives and design of the research will also be considered.

More information on how to submit an application will be updated here when the award is opened in early 2021.

Annika Smith, University of Florida, For the Proposal: The unique nectar spurs of the nasturtiums (Tropaeolum): Vascular architecture, tissue conflict, and synorganization