Web Date: June 25, 2009
Chad Mirkin Wins Lemelson-MIT Prize
Chad 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 pioneered the dip-pen nanolithography technique, in which atomic force microscope tips are used to deposit nanoscale materials, or molecular ink, onto a substrate. This nanopatterning technique has broad applications, including in molecular-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 cofounded the company Nanosphere and founded the company NanoInk to commercialize his technologies, says that 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 identifying and recognizing role models such as Mirkin, the Lemelson-MIT award program will inspire young scientists to lead creative lives through invention. Mirkin's advice to them is this: "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."
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