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Obama presents Dr. Rakesh K. Jain with the National Medal of Science

Dr. Jain works for Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.

Rakesh K Jain (Photo courtesy University of Buffalo.)

By Raif Karerat

President Barack Obama presented the National Medal of Science and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation to 17 individuals at the White House on May 19, including Indian American Rakesh K. Jain of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.

Dr. Jain garnered the National Medal of Science for his role in developing novel strategies for manipulating tumors and translating those strategies into improved cancer detection, prevention, and treatment in humans.

According to Harvard’s Biological and Biomedical Sciences department, Jain and his team developed a plethora of imaging technologies, mathematical models, and animal preparations in order to unravel the complex biology of tumors.

The two awards bequeathed by Obama jointly constitute the most prestigious honors the United States government can bestow upon scientists, engineers, and inventors.

“These scientific laureates exemplify the American spirit and ingenuity that have enriched our society and the global community in profound and lasting ways,” Obama said in a statement. “Their ambition and accomplishments are an inspiration to the next generation pursuing careers in the essential fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.”

Awarded annually since 1959, the National Medal of Science is administered by the National Science Foundation and recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to chemistry, engineering, computing, mathematics, and the biological, behavioral/social, and physical sciences.

The National Medal of Technology and Innovation has been presented since 1980 by directive of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Patent and Trademark Office. The award was created to recognize those who have made lasting contributions to America’s competitiveness, quality of life, and helped strengthen the nation’s technological workforce.

Recipients, National Medal of Science:

Dr. Armand Paul Alivisatos, University of California, Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, CA

For his foundational contributions to the field of nanoscience; for the development of nanocrystals as a building block of nanotechnologies; and for his leadership in the nanoscience community.

Dr. Michael Artin, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MA

For his leadership in modern algebraic geometry, including three major bodies of work: étale cohomology; algebraic approximation of formal solutions of equations; and non-commutative algebraic geometry.

Dr. Albert Bandura, Stanford University, CA

For fundamental advances in the understanding of social learning mechanisms and self-referent thinking processes in motivation and behavior change, and for the development of the social cognitive theory of human action and psychological development.

Dr. Stanley Falkow, Stanford University School of Medicine, CA

For his monumental contributions toward understanding how microbes cause disease and resist the effects of antibiotics, and for his inspiring mentorship that created the field of molecular microbial pathogenesis.

Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, NY

For her insightful work in condensed matter physics and particle physics, for her science-rooted public policy achievements, and for her inspiration to the next generation of professionals in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields.

Dr. Rakesh K. Jain, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, MA

For pioneering research at the interface of engineering and oncology, including tumor microenvironment, drug delivery and imaging, and for groundbreaking discoveries of principles leading to the development and novel use of drugs for treatment of cancer and non-cancerous diseases.

Dr. Mary-Claire King, University of Washington, WA

For pioneering contributions to human genetics, including discovery of the BRCA1 susceptibility gene for breast cancer; and for development of genetic methods to match “disappeared” victims of human rights abuses with their families.

Dr. Simon Levin, Princeton University, NJ

For international leadership in environmental science, straddling ecology and applied mathematics, to promote conservation; for his impact on a generation of environmental scientists; and for his critical contributions to ecology, environmental economics, epidemiology, applied mathematics, and evolution.

Dr. Geraldine Richmond, University of Oregon, OR

For her landmark discoveries of the molecular characteristics of water surfaces; for her creative demonstration of how her findings impact many key biological, environmental, chemical, and technological processes; and for her extraordinary efforts in the United States and around the globe to promote women in science.

Recipients, National Medal of Technology and Innovation:

Dr. Joseph DeSimone, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, and Carbon3D, CA

For pioneering innovations in material science that led to the development of technologies in diverse fields from manufacturing to medicine; and for innovative and inclusive leadership in higher education and entrepreneurship.

Dr. Robert Fischell, University of Maryland, College Park, MD

For invention of novel medical devices used in the treatment of many illnesses thereby improving the health and saving the lives of millions of patients around the world.

Dr. Arthur Gossard, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA

For innovation, development, and application of artificially structured quantum materials critical to ultrahigh performance semiconductor device technology used in today’s digital infrastructure.

Dr. Nancy Ho, Green Tech America, Inc. and Purdue University, IN

For the development of a yeast-based technology that is able to co-ferment sugars extracted from plants to produce ethanol, and for optimizing this technology for large-scale and cost-effective production of renewable biofuels and industrial chemicals.

Dr. Chenming Hu, University of California, Berkeley, CA

For pioneering innovations in microelectronics including reliability technologies, the first industry-standard model for circuit design, and the first 3-dimensional transistors, which radically advanced semiconductor technology.

Dr. Mark Humayun, University of Southern California, CA

For the invention, development, and application of bioelectronics in medicine, including a retinal prosthesis for restoring vision to the blind, thereby significantly improving patients’ quality of life.

Dr. Cato T. Laurencin, University of Connecticut, CT

For seminal work in the engineering of musculoskeletal tissues, especially for revolutionary achievements in the design of bone matrices and ligament regeneration; and for extraordinary work in promoting diversity and excellence in science.

Dr. Jonathan Rothberg, 4catalyzer Corporation and Yale School of Medicine, CT

For pioneering inventions and commercialization of next generation DNA sequencing technologies, making access to genomic information easier, faster, and more cost-effective for researchers around the world.