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2009 National Medal of Science Recipients


President Obama named nine researchers as recipients of the National Medal of Science, and four inventors and one company as recipients of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the highest honors bestowed by the United States government on scientists, engineers and inventors. The recipients will receive their awards on October 7 at a White House ceremony.

This year's National Medal of Science recipients are:

Berni Alder, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, CA. Alder is widely regarded as the founder of molecular dynamics, a type of computer simulation used for studying the motions and interactions of atoms over time. His expertise includes changing kinetic molecular theory by showing that simulations can significantly affect a scientific field. In 1980, Alder was one of the pioneers who used large-scale simulations to solve quantum mechanics problems.

Francis Collins, National Institutes of Health, MD. In addition to his leadership of the Human Genome Project, Dr. Collins initiated and guided a wide range of follow-up projects in large-scale genomics: the International HapMap Project; the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements; the Knockout Mouse Project; the Mammalian Gene Collection; The Cancer Genome Atlas, which is a joint effort with the National Cancer Institute; and the Molecular Libraries Initiative and the Human Microbiome Project, both of which are part of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research.

Joanna Fowler, Brookhaven National Laboratory, NY. Fowler has been a major contributor to brain research and the investigation of diseases such as addiction, which she has studied using an imaging technique called positron emission tomography (PET). In 1976, Fowler and her colleagues synthesized 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG), a radiotracer used in PET. Today, FDG is widely used in hospitals and research centers throughout the world to diagnose and study neurological and psychiatric diseases and to diagnose cancer.

Elaine Fuchs, The Rockefeller University, NY. Cell biologist Fuchs studies how skin stem cells self-renew, develop, and maintain the epidermis and hair follicles, and in the molecular mechanisms that enable these cells to respond to various external cues, depart from their niche and accomplish these tasks. Her contributions have been instrumental to modern dermatology.

James Gunn, Princeton University, NJ. Gunn has been a central figure in all three major arenas of astronomy research: theory, observation and instrumentation. He has made fundamental contributions to the theoretical understanding of the intergalactic medium, pulsars, gravitational lensing, the cosmological constant, galaxy and large-scale structure formation, and astroparticle physics; he has led highly successful observational programs to study the cosmic distance scale, the mass of the Milky Way, the internal dynamics of globular clusters, the geometry of the Universe, and distant radio galaxies, quasars, and clusters of galaxies; he has played a major role in the construction of many of the most powerful instruments developed for the Palomar 5-meter telescope over the past two decades, and in the design and construction of the most productive and versatile first-generation instrument on the Hubble Space Telescope.

Rudolf Kalman, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich. He invented the Kalman filter, a mathematical technique that removes "noise" from series of data. From incomplete information, it can optimally estimate and control the state of a changing, complex system over time. The Kalman filter revolutionized the field of control theory and has become pervasive in engineering systems. Kalman's ideas enabled a broad range of technologies to achieve unprecedented accuracy and to be used in previously unimagined ways. Recognition of the Kalman filter's utility began in the early 1960s with aerospace and military applications such as guidance, navigation, and control systems. It was quickly applied to systems and devices in nearly all engineering fields and continues to find new uses today. Applications include target tracking by radar, global positioning systems, hydrological modeling, atmospheric observations, time-series analyses in econometrics, and automated drug delivery.

Michael Posner, University of Oregon, OR. Psychologist Michael Posner has been one of the foremost figures in the investigations of the human mind and its relation to the functions of the brain. He has set in motion cognitive approaches to neuroscience that have resulted in a series of fundamental discoveries about mind and brain and made him one of the world leaders in this field. This work has relied upon exciting new neuroimaging technologies (PET and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging or fMRI), but the research would not have been possible without the corresponding sophistication of a theory of mind and the methods of analysis developed by Posner.

JoAnne Stubbe, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MA. Stubbe is an internationally recognized leader in mechanistic enzymology and bioinorganic chemistry. Her experiments established the mechanisms of ribonucleotide reductases, polyester synthases, and natural product DNA cleavers -- compelling demonstrations of the power of chemical investigations to solve problems in biology. The Stubbe group has carried out pioneering mechanistic investigations on polyhydroxybutyrate synthase and related enzymes that participate in the biosynthesis of industrially useful bioplastics.

J. Craig Venter, J. Craig Venter Institute, MD & CA. For more than two decades Dr. J. Craig Venter and his research teams have been pioneers in genomic research. The revolution began in 1991 when at the National Institutes of Health Dr. Venter and his team developed expressed sequence tags (ESTs), a new technique to rapidly discover genes. Dr. Venter and his colleagues then started a new kind of not for profit research institute, The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) where they used their new computing and computational tools, as well as new DNA sequencing technology, to sequence the first free living organism, Haemophilus influenzae in 1995. The sequencing and analysis of the human genome was published in 2001 by Dr. Venter and his team at Celera Genomics.

The National Medal of Technology and Innovation has its roots in a 1980 statute and is administered for the White House by the U.S. Department of Commerce's U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The award recognizes individuals or companies for their outstanding contributions to the promotion of technology for the improvement of the economic, environmental or social well-being of the United States. Nominees are selected by a distinguished independent committee representing both the private and public sectors.

This year's National Medal of Technology and Innovation recipients are:

Forrest M. Bird, Percussionaire Corp., ID. Bird is a notable scientist, inventor, and aviator -- his Bird respirator, introduced to the market in 1956, was the world's first reliable, mass-produced medical respirator. A pediatric version followed, credited with reducing infant mortality in low birth weight babies by 60 percent. Over the years, Bird has continued to improve upon his devices and create new ones, such as Intrapulmonary Percussive Ventilation and the first mobile ventilator system.

Esther Sans Takeuchi, University at Buffalo, SUNY, NY. Takeuchi is a chemist specializing in energy storage; portable power sources; synthesis and characterization of electrochemically active materials; micro-power sources; nanomaterials and nanostructured materials.

John E. Warnock and Charles M. Geschke, Adobe Systems Inc., VA. The cofounders of Adobe Systems, the two have worked closely together to develop a stream of pioneering software products that leverage Adobe's strength in transforming how people create, process and engage with information.

IBM Corporation, NY. IBM is being recognized for its Blue Gene family of supercomputers. Blue Gene's speed and expandability have enabled business and science to address a wide range of complex problems and make more informed decisions -- not just in the life sciences, but also in astronomy, climate, simulations, modeling and many other areas.

"These scientists, engineers and inventors are national icons, embodying the very best of American ingenuity and inspiring a new generation of thinkers and innovators," said President Obama. "Their extraordinary achievements strengthen our nation every day -- not just intellectually and technologically but also economically, by helping create new industries and opportunities that others before them could never have imagined."

"Each year we are proud to help select the National Medal of Science recipients, gifted individuals who have contributed to America and to science with superb research," said Arden L. Bement, Jr., director of the National Science Foundation (NSF). "These 2008 laureates have impacted our lives by enhancing understanding of the human brain, mapping the human genome and uncovering the basis of human diseases to designing influential astronomical telescopes that 'further reveal the properties of matter, and establishing a scientific basis for Moon landings and today's widely used GPS [Global Positioning System]. Their accomplishments reflect the great import of this award."

The National Medal of Science was created by statute in 1959, and is administered for the White House by NSF. Awarded annually, the Medal recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to science and engineering. Nominees are selected by a committee of Presidential appointees based on their advanced knowledge in, and contributions to, the biological, behavioral/social and physical sciences, as well as chemistry, engineering, computing and mathematics.


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