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What’s Trending at the White House? Ursinus College!

For the second time this year, an alumnus was honored. Joseph DeSimone ’86 received one of the nation’s highest honors in the fields of science and technology, following Aakash Shah ’10 in March. 

For the second time this year, an Ursinus College alumnus captured the attention of the nation’s capital. During a special ceremony Thursday, May 19, Joseph DeSimone ’86 received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, one of the nation’s highest honors for achievement and leadership in advancing the fields of science and technology.

President Barack Obama bestowed the National Medals of Science and National Medals of Technology and Innovation to 17 of the country’s foremost scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and innovators. It was broadcast live at www.whitehouse.gov/live.

DeSimone is the second Ursinus College alumnus to be honored by the White House this year. Aakash Shah ’10 was recognized in March as a “Champion of Change” for his work with Be Jersey Strong, a grassroots nonprofit organization he founded that helps New Jersey residents understand their health care options. He was among 10 individuals selected by the White House for their work relating to the Affordable Care Act.

A member of the Ursinus College Board of Trustees, 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 North Carolina State University. He currently leads Carbon3D, a company he co-founded that is developing new 3D printing technology.  That transformative change, first demonstrated at an international TED talk in 2015, drew the attention of BBC News, Bloomberg Business, Wired, and countless other media outlets, as well as such global customers as Johnson & Johnson and Ford.

An innovative polymer chemist who made dry cleaning sustainable, DeSimone has more than 300 publications and holds more than 180 patents, which have led to the founding of multiple companies based on his work. He has already been elected to the Institute of Medicine — one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine for a U.S. scientist — and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2005 and the National Academy of Sciences in 2012.

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 for the honor to the President of the United States.

“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,” President Obama said. – E.M.  

Video of the ceremony from the White House. Joseph DeSimone’s award starts at 16:30.