Issue Date: July 6, 2009
Chad Mirkin Wins Lemelson-MIT Prize
Chad A. Mirkin, George B. Rathmann Professor of Chemistry and director of the International Institute for Nanotechnology at Northwestern University, is the winner of this year's $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize, which recognizes midcareer scientists whose inventions are making a broad impact on society.
Mirkin, 45, pioneered the dip-pen nanolithography technique, which uses atomic force microscope tips to deposit nanoscale materials, or molecular ink, onto a substrate. This nanopatterning technique has broad applications, including in molecule-based electronics. He also invented a nanoparticle-based diagnostic system that can detect very low concentrations of molecules associated with disease.
"These awards are not given for any single invention," says Michael J. Cima, faculty director of the Lemelson-MIT Program, which administers the annual award. "They're given because of a track record of innovation, and Mirkin has a long history of inventing and exploiting new and novel ideas."
Mirkin, who founded NanoInk and cofounded Nanosphere to commercialize his technologies, says it's not enough to just develop a new technology. "If you are going to truly develop a technology, you need to go to the point where it's used," he says. "The world doesn't want just another way; it wants a better way."
Cima hopes that by recognizing role models such as Mirkin, the Lemelson-MIT award program will inspire young scientists to lead creative lives through invention. Mirkin offers this advice: "Believe in your ideas. So many people can be talked out of doing what they think is worth doing," he says. "If I quit every time somebody said you can't do it, I wouldn't have gotten very far."
The Lemelson-MIT program also administers the $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Award for Sustainability and the $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize. The program is funded by the Lemelson Foundation, which was established in 1993 by the late inventor Jerome H. Lemelson and his wife, Dorothy.
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