(Photo by Tajha Chappellet-Lanier)
When President Barack Obama gives out the nation’s preeminent science and technology awards, he doesn’t hide his enthusiasm for the work.
“I love this stuff,” the President quipped, shortly after taking the stage for the National Medal of Science and National Medal of Technology and Innovation awards ceremony in the East Room of the White House on Thursday. In the span of his short remarks, Obama managed to drop a smattering of dad jokes, as well as tell a couple of pertinent stories about the recipients.
Shirley Ann Jackson, for example, a winner of the National Medal of Science, grew up in D.C. and was the first African-American woman to receive a doctorate from MIT. She won the award for her work in condensed matter physics.
A total of 17 individuals took the stage alongside the President to receive one of this year’s round of the awards given annually for outstanding work in the STEM fields. The honored scientists work in a diversity of fields and hail from all over the country — from College Park, Md., to Santa Barbara, Calif. But, for an afternoon, they all had at least one thing in common. Here’s the full list:
National Medal of Science recipients
- Armand Paul Alivisatos, for nanoscience.
- Michael Artin, for algebraic geometry.
- Albert Bandura, for “fundamental advances in the understanding of social learning mechanisms.”
- Stanley Falkow, for work in microbiology.
- Shirley Ann Jackson, for physics.
- Rakesh K. Jain, for work in engineering and oncology.
- Mary-Claire King, for genetics.
- Simon Asher Levin, for environmental science.
- Geraldine Richmond, for chemistry.
National Medal of Technology and Innovation recipients
- Joseph N. DeSimone, for material science.
- Robert E. Fischell, for work on medical devices.
- Arthur Gossard, for work in semiconductors.
- Nancy Ho, for work in renewable biofuels.
- Chenming Hu, for microelectronics.
- Mark Humayun, for work in engineering and ophthalmology.
- Cato T. Laurencin, for “the engineering of musculoskeletal tissues.”
- Jonathan Marc Rothberg, for inventions in DNA sequencing.
It was a seriously impressive room. But, the President remarked, “when you talk to these brilliant men and women, it’s clear the honor has not yet gone to their heads. They still put their lab coats [on] one arm at a time.” The room erupted into giddy laughter. Scientists — they’re just like us!
Soon, though, all the awards had been given and it was time for the ceremony to draw to a close. “Science rocks,” the President affirmed, by way of an ending.
We’re happy to agree with you there, POTUS — science does, indeed, rock.-30-
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