Innovative technology pioneers Robert S. Langer and George M. Whitesides were awarded the distinguished Industrial Research Institute Medal on May 22, as part of IRI’s 75th anniversary celebration in Washington, D.C.
The award recognizes outstanding accomplishments in technological innovation that have contributed broadly to the development of industry and the benefit of society. Langer and Whitesides each received a gold medal.
Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was cited for his outstanding contributions in the field of bioscience, which have resulted in drugs and drug delivery systems that have improved the health of millions of people worldwide.
Whitesides, the Woodford L. & Ann A. Flowers University Professor at Harvard University, was recognized for his exceptional work in nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, organometallic chemistry, molecular self-assembly, and nanotechnology.
“The conventional model for research is ‘Universities do science and generate knowledge; industry solves problems and makes products,’ ” Whitesides says. “Many laboratories—both university based and in industry—have of course done both, but financial pressures on both have increasingly made it more difficult to do so.”
Whitesides says he is pleased to receive an award that recognizes both the inventive and the practical aspects of research. “Doing pure science is good; doing pure technology is good; doing both is, at least in my experience, harder than it seems and often more interesting than doing one or the other in isolation,” he says.
“I’m truly honored to receive this award,” Langer says. “I’m also delighted to share it with George and to be recognized for discoveries that are not only of fundamental scientific significance but of practical value to humanity as well.”