President Obama Presents National Medal of Science to Indian-American Engineer
By Geeta Goindi
Washington, DC, May 19 – President Obama has bestowed the nation’s highest honor for achievement and leadership in advancing the field of science to an Indian-American engineer.
At an august ceremony in the ornate East Room of the White House, Obama presented the National Medal of Science to Dr. Rakesh K. Jain, a professor at Harvard Medical School and director of the tumor biology laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Jain has a B.Tech from IIT-Kanpur and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Delaware, all in chemical engineering.
The citation read: ‘National Medal of Science to Rakesh K. Jain, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General hospital, Massachusetts. For pioneering research at the interface of engineering and oncology including tumor microenvironment, drug delivery and imaging, and for groundbreaking discoveries of principles leading to the development and novel use of drugs for treatment of cancer and non-cancerous diseases’.
At the White House ceremony, 17 brilliant professionals from across the country received either a National Medal of Science or National Medal of Technology and Innovation which together constitute the highest honor in America for outstanding achievement in science and technology. On hand at the event were: members of Congress; Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz; White House Science Advisor John Holdren; France Cordova, Director of the National Science Foundation; Michelle Lee, Director of the US Patent and Trademark Office; Jim Rathmann of the National Medals of Science and Technology Foundation; teachers and innovators in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
Addressing the eminent gathering, Obama noted, “The amount of brainpower in this room right now is astonishing”.
To the award recipients, “the brilliant men and women”, he said, “As President, I’m proud to honor each of you for your contributions to our nation. As an American, I’m proud of everything that you’ve done to contribute to that fearless spirit of innovation that makes us who we are, and that doesn’t just benefit our citizens, but benefits the world. We’re very proud of what you’ve done. So, congratulations to all of you”!
Just over a month ago, Obama hosted the popular White House Science Fair at which several Indian-American whiz kids were afforded an opportunity to showcase their innovations. At the Fair, a nine-year-old student suggested the formation of a kids’ advisory group so that young people can help the US administration understand what’s interesting to them when it comes to STEM education.
At the ceremony on Thursday, the President announced the launch of “a Kid Science Advisors campaign” which would enable young scientists and innovators to send in their suggestions for what his administration should be doing to support science and technology, and inspire the next generation of scientists and innovators. He implored students to go to http://www.whitehouse.gov and participate. “We’re going to be looking for some advisors, some advice”, he said, to laughter from the audience.
Continuing to emphasize the importance of immersing young people in STEM, Obama averred, “It’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl or the NCAA tournament that deserves a celebration. We want the winners of science fairs, we want those who have invented the products and lifesaving medicines and are engineering our future to be celebrated as well”.
About the honorees at the White House event, he noted that many “came from humble or ordinary beginnings, but along the way, someone or something sparked their curiosity”. They availed of opportunities offered in America and did “extraordinary things. So there are few better examples for our young people to follow than the Americans that we honor today”, he said.
The National Medal of Science, established by the US Congress in 1959, is awarded annually to individuals deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to knowledge in the physical, biological, mathematical, engineering, social and behavioral sciences.
The National Medal of Technology and Innovation, established by law in 1980 and first conferred in 1985, is awarded annually to individuals or companies for outstanding contributions to America’s economic, environmental and social well-being. By highlighting the national importance of technological innovation, the medal also serves to inspire future generations of Americans to pursue technical careers so America remains at the forefront of global technology and economic leadership.