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Alumnus Receives Nation’s Highest Honor in Technology

Alumnus Joseph DeSimone ’86 is one of eight individuals to receive the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the highest honor the United States can confer to a U.S. citizen for achievements related to technological progress.

The National Medal of Technology and Innovation was created by statute in 1980 and is administered for the White House by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Patent and Trademark Office. The award recognizes those who have made lasting contributions to America’s competitiveness and quality of life and helped strengthen the Nation’s technological workforce. A distinguished independent committee representing the private and public sectors submits recommendations to the President.

“Science and technology are fundamental to solving some of our Nation’s biggest challenges,” President Obama said in a press release issued Dec. 22. “The knowledge produced by these Americans today will carry our country’s legacy of innovation forward and continue to help countless others around the world. Their work is a testament to American ingenuity.”

Dr. DeSimone is the Chancellor’s Eminent Professor of Chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the William R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering at NC State and of Chemistry at UNC-Chapel Hill. An innovative polymer chemist who made dry cleaning sustainable, he is known for his ability to apply insights in materials science to create advances in medicine, as well as other fields. Dr. DeSimone has more than 300 publications and holds more than 180 patents, which have led him to found multiple companies based on his work. In October 2014, he was elected to all three branches of the National Academies. He was recently the recipient of Northwestern University’s International Institute for Nanotechnology’s inaugural $250,000 Kabiller Prize, an international award that recognizes advances in nanotechnology for medicine and biology.

“It is a true honor to receive this recognition from the White House and a statement of distinction that my students, postdocs and collaborators richly deserve,” said DeSimone. “Throughout my career I have heavily relied on the lifelong learnings I received during my rich and intellectually rewarding years at Ursinus College. I will always be grateful. Go Bears!”

“Dr. DeSimone’s achievement is a testament to what can be realized when students embrace inquiry and innovation—two ideas that have been fundamental to Ursinus since its founding. This is an inspirational, historic accomplishment that will be celebrated by the Ursinus community for decades to come,” said president Brock Blomberg.

Dr. DeSimone is the Vice Chair of the Ursinus Board of Trustees and the parent of Ursinus graduate Philip, class of 2012.