The Robert Dirks Molecular Programming Prize

The Robert Dirks Molecular Programming Prize recognizes exceptional early-career achievement by a researcher working in any area of molecular programming, whether theory, experiment, computation, or a combination thereof. The winner will receive a cash prize and be invited to present a Prize Lecture at the Foundations of Nanoscience Conference. The award will be given in years when one or more candidates of outstanding achievement and promise are nominated.

Eligibility: To be eligible, a candidate must not yet have accepted a tenure-track position at the time of nomination (for example, a candidate would typically be a graduate student or a postdoc), but should have the goal of obtaining a tenure-track position and contributing a professional lifetime of outstanding research and scholarly study. However, a nominee for the Nth Dirks Prize that does not receive the prize and subsequently accepts a tenure-track offer in the same calendar year is eligible to be re-nominated one final time for the (N+1)st Dirks Prize.

Nominations: A nomination consists of:

  • the candidate’s CV 
  • a confidential nomination letter (self-nominations not permitted, re-nominations are welcome)

After a nomination is uploaded, up to two additional confidential recommendation letters may be uploaded by additional recommenders. If you have questions, please email

Deadline: Nominations must be uploaded by January 31, 2023. Any additional recommendation letters must be uploaded by February 10, 2023.

Molecular Programming: The emerging discipline of molecular programming is jointly inspired by the remarkable programmable molecular circuits and devices that orchestrate life and by the transformative impact of computer science on technology and society. Molecular programming researchers seek to develop the principles and practice for a new engineering discipline that will enable the function of molecules to be programmed with the ease and rigor that computers are programmed today, while achieving the sophistication, complexity, and robustness evident in the programmable DNA, RNA, and protein machinery of biology.

Robert Dirks

Robert Dirks, 1978-2015

Remembering Robert Dirks: Robert Dirks tragically lost his life in the Metro-North train crash in New York on February 3, 2015. As a graduate student, Robert made indelible contributions to the field of molecular programming, providing the first experimental demonstration of conditional nucleic acid self-assembly, and drawing on deep mathematical principles to develop computational algorithms that enable researchers around the world to analyze and design nucleic acid molecules, devices, and systems. Brilliant, creative, generous, humble, and kind, Robert was a model scientist and collaborator. Members of the ISNSCE research community honor Robert’s memory by awarding the Dirks Prize to an inspiring member of the next generation of molecular programmers.

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