WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama declared science "is fun" Thursday as he recognized 17 leading scientists and innovators for work helping put "countless revolutionary discoveries within our reach."
Obama paired the honors with a renewed pitch for encouraging young people to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
He announced a new advisory board to solicit suggestions from youngsters on how the government can support budding scientists and innovators. He also noted that the White House is "engaging in a lot of science and tinkering here" — including astronomy nights, hack-a-thons and code-a-thons, and science and maker fairs.
"It is fun. I love this stuff," Obama said, noting that the events have allowed him to test some "cool stuff."
Returning to the ceremony, the president said the "real reason we do this" is because "it's not just the winner of the Super Bowl or the NCAA tournament that deserves a celebration. We want the winners of science fairs, we want those who have invented the products and life-saving medicines and are engineering our future to be celebrated as well."
"Immersing young people in science, math, engineering ... that's what's going to carry the American spirit of innovation through the 21st century and beyond," Obama said at a White House ceremony where he awarded the National Medal of Science and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.
The medals are the highest honors the U.S. bestows on its scientists, engineers and inventors.
Recipients of the National Medal of Science:
- Armand Paul Alivisatos, University of California, Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, California, for contributions to the field of nanoscience.
- Michael Artin, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for leadership in modern algebraic geometry.
- Albert Bandura, Stanford University, for "fundamental advances" in the understanding of social learning mechanisms and self-referent thinking processes in motivation and behavior change.
- Stanley Falkow, Stanford University School of Medicine, for major contributions toward understanding how microbes cause disease and resist the effects of antibiotics.
- Shirley Ann Jackson, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, New York, for "insightful work" in condensed matter physics and particle physics, and science-rooted public policy achievements.
- Rakesh K. Jain, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, 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.
- Mary-Claire King, University of Washington, for pioneering contributions to human genetics, including discovery of the BRCA1 breast cancer gene.
- Simon Levin, Princeton University, New Jersey, for international leadership in environmental science, straddling ecology and applied mathematics, to promote conservation.
- Geraldine Richmond, University of Oregon, for landmark discoveries of the molecular characteristics of water surfaces.
- Recipients of National Medal of Technology and Innovation:
- Joseph DeSimone, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, and Carbon3D, California, for pioneering innovations in material science that led to the development of technologies in diverse fields from manufacturing to medicine.
- Robert Fischell, University of Maryland, for invention of invention of novel medical devices.
- Arthur Gossard, University of California, Santa Barbara, for innovation, development, and application of artificially structured quantum materials critical to ultrahigh performance semiconductor device technology used in today's digital infrastructure.
- Nancy Ho, Green Tech America, Inc. and Purdue University, for the development of a yeast-based technology that is able to co-ferment sugars extracted from plants to produce ethanol.
- Chenming Hu, University of California, Berkeley, 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.
- Mark Humayun, University of Southern California, 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.
- Cato T. Laurencin, University of Connecticut, for seminal work in the engineering of musculoskeletal tissues.
- Jonathan Rothberg, 4catalyzer Corporation and Yale School of Medicine, 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.