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College alums win National Medal of Science

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National Medal of Science
National Medal of Science

September 21, 2009

Two College of Chemistry alumni have been named by President Obama as recipients of the National Medal of Science, the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on scientists. Along with the other seven recipients, Berni Alder (M.S. ’48, B.S. ’47, ChemE) and JoAnne Stubbe (Ph.D. ’71, Chem) will receive their awards on October 7, at a White House ceremony.

“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.

Alder, 84, a retired Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientist, is widely regarded as the founder of molecular dynamics, a type of computer simulation used for studying the motions and interactions of atoms. Molecular dynamics are widely used across a wide range of sciences, from fundamental physics to molecular biology.

Stubbe, 63, an MIT biochemistry professor, was honored “for her groundbreaking experiments establishing 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 National Medal of Science was created by statute in 1959, and is administered for the White House by National Science Foundation. Awarded annually, the medal recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to science and engineering.

Nine College of Chemistry professors have won the medal: Melvin Calvin, Darleane Hoffman, Harold Johnston, Y. T. Lee, George C. Pimentel, Kenneth S. Pitzer, John Prausnitz, Glenn Seaborg and Gabor Somorjai.