News from the National Academy of Sciences

Jan. 24, 2017


Academy Honors Five for Major Contributions in Physical Science and Engineering

WASHINGTON — The National Academy of Sciences will honor five individuals with awards in recognition of their extraordinary scientific achievements in physical science and engineering.

Jerome H. Milgram, professor emeritus in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will receive the 2017 Gibbs Brothers Medal.

Over his 50-year career, Milgram has made countless contributions to naval architecture in areas such as theoretical hydromechanics, education, yacht design, environmental protection, and the practical arts of ocean systems.

During the 1980s, Milgram made numerous important practical contributions to the safety of the United States' naval forces, including studies into the dynamics of extreme tension in open-ocean towing, which are now in use worldwide. He also played a vital role in educating the Navy’s ship design managers and program officers.

Also in the realm of safety, Milgram was one of the early pioneers in the development of equipment for the cleanup of oceanic oil spills. His research also played an important role in our understanding of how oil slicks are dispersed by ocean waves and turbulence, as well as on the hydrodynamics of oil-water interfaces. SCOOP, one of his 12 patented oil-spill cleanup technologies used at offshore oil ports, was an outgrowth of larger systems that he designed and supervised construction of for the United States Coast Guard. His work in this field also delved into the hydrodynamics of gas-liquid plumes above offshore wells and the performance of offshore platforms during well-blowouts.

In addition, Milgram’s yacht-design work helped to lead eight America’s Cup design teams to championships. For the 1992 AC campaign, Milgram was the design director and chief computer modeler.

The Gibbs Brothers Medal is awarded for outstanding contributions in the field of naval architecture and marine engineering. The award is presented with a medal and a $20,000 prize.

Leroy E. Hood, president and co-founder, Institute for Systems Biology, Senior Vice President and Chief Science Officer, Providence St. Joseph Health, will receive the 2017 NAS Award for Chemistry in Service to Society.

Hood is a biotech visionary who has revolutionized biology and medicine in a career that spans five decades. Among his many accomplishments, Hood invented, commercialized, and developed multiple chemical tools that address biological complexity, including the automated DNA sequencer which spearheaded the Human Genome Project.

Hood’s earlier research work at Caltech led to the development of four DNA and protein sequencers and synthesizers, all of which became core instruments for contemporary molecular biology. Later, Hood’s lab developed the ink-jet oligonucleotide synthesizer, a core technology for DNA chip synthesis and large-scale DNA synthesis, and the first instrument capable of global single-molecule analysis of DNA and RNA molecules.

Beyond these innovations, Hood shepherded a cross-disciplinary approach to chemistry and biology, which led to the establishment of the Science and Technology Center for Molecular Biotechnology through the National Science Foundation, as well as the creation of the first cross-disciplinary department of biology, the Department of Molecular Biotechnology (MBT) at the University of Washington, Seattle, efforts which have influenced everything from academic research to K-12 STEM education.

Hood was an early proponent and advocate for the Human Genome Project, and directed the Human Genome Center’s sequencing of portions of human chromosomes 14 and 15. He has also founded or co-founded 15 different biotechnology companies to help commercialize genomic and proteomic technologies. Hood is a member of all three National Academies: Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

In 2000, Hood co-founded the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB), which was the first institute to practice systems biology. From the beginning, ISB started to focus systems approaches on studying disease. This led to the emergence of systems medicine. 

Dr. Hood’s pioneering work is now focused on new approaches to P4 medicine (predictive, preventive, personalized, and participatory), which is a continuation of his lifelong efforts to transform health care. In 2013, Dr. Hood and ISB embarked on creating a P4 pilot project in scientific wellness, comprising thousands of individuals.In 2016, ISB affiliated with Providence St. Joseph Health, to bring P4 medicine to the U.S. health care system. Dr. Hood is also beginning to focus on a systems education approach to bringing P4 medicine to health care professionals.

The NAS Award for Chemistry in Service to Society is awarded biennially for contributions to chemistry, either in fundamental science or its application, that clearly satisfy a societal need. The award is given in alternate years to chemists working in industry and to those in academia, government, and nonprofit organizations. The award is presented with a $20,000 prize.

Robert H. Dennard, IBM Fellow Emeritus, IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, will receive the 2017 NAS Award for the Industrial Application of Science.

Dennard’s contributions to microelectronics heavily influenced the world of modern computing. In 1966 he invented one-transistor Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM), which replaced magnetic-core memory and became the RAM of virtually every computer and communication device used in industry today, ranging from transportation to telecommunications to medicine. Each basic DRAM cell uses a single transistor and a tiny capacitor to store a bit of data (stated as 0 or 1) in a large memory array within an integrated circuit chip, along with decoding circuits needed to write and read data to and from the chip. Dennard is the sole inventor of the fundamental DRAM patent, just one of his many patents.

Dennard made another fundamental contribution in 1972, working with his colleagues to develop scaling principles for miniaturization of MOS (Metal Oxide Semiconductor) transistor devices and integrated circuits (ICs). Applying these scaling principles led to the increased density, operating speed, and energy efficiency of devices and circuits. They also provided industry with accurate, long-term projections of what advances in technology would mean to semiconductors and other products. This scaling methodology led the way from the early 5-micron MOS IC layout dimensions to today’s nanometer-scale dimensions of memory chips, high-performance processor chips and other IC applications using modern CMOS (Complementary MOS) technology.

Dennard also was a conceptual leader in IBM's early development of word/bit line redundancy for DRAM yield improvement, which was used in the IBM 64 kilobit DRAM. Word/bit line redundancy now is a standard technique in the memory industry.

Dennard is the recipient of the Kyoto Prize, the IEEE Medal of Honor, and the National Medal of Technology, and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, among many other honors.

The NAS Award for the Industrial Application of Science is awarded for original scientific work of intrinsic scientific importance and with significant, beneficial applications in industry. The award, which includes a $25,000 prize, was established by the IBM Corporation in honor of Ralph E. Gomory.

Armand Paul Alivisatos, professor of chemistry and materials science at the University of California, Berkeley, and director of the Kavli Energy NanoScience Institute, will receive the 2017 NAS Award in Chemical Sciences.

Alivisatos is a pioneer in the field of nanotechnology, with work that has had important ramifications for the development of renewable energy, biomedical imaging, light-emitting devices, and other fields.

Early in his career, Alivisatos made critical contributions to the development of quantum dots, a new class of materials which became a fundamental building block in nanoscience. This led Alivisatos and his collaborators to apply these discoveries to biomedical imaging and, later, to a new generation of displays and new types of solar cells. His work has also led to innovations in the control of nanocrystals , and the graphene liquid cell for use in electron microscopy.

In addition to his own research, Alivisatos played a critical role in the establishment of the Molecular Foundry, a U.S. Department of Energy Nanoscale Science Research Center, for which he served as founding director, a role he also held at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He founded and remains the editor of Nano Letters, a leading scientific publication in nanoscience, and established multiple companies working in the field of nanotechnology.

The NAS Award in Chemical Sciences is presented annually to honor innovative research in the chemical sciences that contributes to a better understanding of the natural sciences and to the benefit of humanity. The award is presented with a medal and a $15,000 cash prize.

Frances H. Arnold, the Dick and Barbara Dickinson Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering, and Biochemistry at the California Institute of Technology, will receive the 2017 Raymond and Beverly Sackler Prize in Convergence Research.

Arnold’s pioneering work on enzymes took its cue from natural evolutionary processes. She developed a technique called directed evolution, which emulates natural selection through iterative application of random mutagenesis and rapid mutant screening in order to accumulate beneficial mutations. During the 1990s, Arnold invented this technology in order to “breed” proteins with desirable traits that would have been difficult or impossible to design. The work has led to the creation of a broad array of new and useful enzymes, which are used in pharmaceuticals, biofuels, plastics, research reagents, diagnostics, and other specialties, a field collectively worth an estimated $2 billion a year.

Beyond that, Arnold’s work also has provided insight into natural processes, allowing researchers to examine the molecular basis of protein function and evolution and experimentally test evolutionary theory.

Her most recent work takes this even further by developing enzymes that have no biological counterparts and that have tremendous implications for the creation of new types of catalysts.

The Raymond and Beverly Sackler Prize in Convergence Research recognizes significant advances in convergence research -- the integration of two or more of the following disciplines: mathematics, physics, chemistry, biomedicine, biology, astronomy, earth sciences, engineering, and computational science -- for achievements possible only through such integration. The award is presented with a medal and a $350,000 cash prize.

The winners will be honored in a ceremony on Sunday, April 30, during the National Academy of Sciences' 154th annual meeting.
The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit institution that was established under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. It recognizes achievement in science by election to membership, and — with the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine — provides science, engineering, and health policy advice to the federal government and other organizations.

Molly Galvin, Senior Media Relations Officer
Office of News and Public Information
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