Donald R. Kaplan Dissertation Award in Comparative Morphology


The Botanical Society of America is soliciting applications for the Kaplan Dissertation 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 developmental morphology. Donald Kaplan always encouraged his students to work independently, often on projects unrelated to his own research. He also 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 for the award should have a strong focus on questions that address the evolution or generation of diversity in form and advance the field of comparative plant structure. Graduate students in other disciplines whose work may bring novel insights into developmental or morphological problems 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 the proposed research is related to the student’s overall dissertation project. Proposals should include a cover page with the applicant’s name and abstract (500 words or less). This should be followed by the proposal body, limited to a maximum of 5 single-spaced pages in total (including figures), followed by separate references. The proposal body should include background information, methods (this section limited to 1 page maximum, of the total), a clear statement of the significance of the possible outcomes, and a statement (200 words or less) addressing how the applicant or their work contributes to broadening participation and inclusivity in botany and the BSA, and a brief budget. 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 and their advisors must both indicate clearly how the proposed research differs in a substantial manner from the research program of the advisor.

Erin Patterson, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, For the Proposal: The development and evolution of awns in the grass subfamily Pooideae

Honorable Mention:
Jacob Suissa
, Harvard University, For the Proposal: Bumps in the node: the effects of vascular architecture on hydraulic integration in fern rhizomes



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