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February 7, 2007

Paul Alivisatos Wins E.O. Lawrence Award

BERKELEY, CA — Paul Alivisatos, director of the Materials Sciences Division for the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), and a professor of chemistry and materials science and the Larry and Diane Bock Professor of Nanotechnology for the Berkeley campus of the University of California (UC), has been named one of eight new winners of the Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award by U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Samuel Bodman. The Lawrence award, which is named for Berkeley Lab’s founder, the Nobel Prize-winning inventor of the cyclotron, is the highest scientific prize given by DOE.

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Paul Alivisatos is Associate Laboratory Director for Physical Sciences at Berkeley Lab and the Larry and Diane Bock Professor of Nanotechnology at UC Berkeley.

“I am very honored to receive this award named after E. O. Lawrence since I have spent my whole career as a scientist supported in every way by the lab he created,” Alivisatos said. “Throughout my career, I have been inspired by the spirit Lawrence imbued in this lab.”

Alivisatos, a chemist and leading authority on nanocrystals, shared the Lawrence award in the materials research category with Moungi Bawendi, a nanoscientist with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). 

Also winning a Lawrence Award this year in the category of life sciences was Arup Chakraborty, a chemical engineer who is now at MIT, where he serves as the Robert T. Haslam Professor of Chemical Engineering, as well as a professor of chemistry and biological engineering. Chakraborty did much of his  award-winning research on T cells during the 17 years he was at Berkeley, where he held a joint appointment with Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences and Materials Sciences Divisions, and both the Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Departments of UC Berkeley.

“I was surprised and honored to hear that I won the Lawrence award,” said Chakraborty.  “My work in the life sciences category could not have been initiated without the support of Graham Fleming (Deputy Director of Berkeley Lab) through the Physical Biosciences Division. Inspiration from other Berkeley colleagues, particularly David Chandler, Bill Miller, and George Oster was also crucial.”

Said Secretary Bodman in announcing the awards, “These brilliant scientists and their varied and important research inspire us. Their work reminds us of the importance of continued investment in science and the need for increased emphasis on basic research and math and science education programs.”

The Lawrence Awards honor scientists and engineers for exceptional contributions in research and development that support DOE’s mission to advance the national, economic and energy security of the United States. The award consists of a gold medal, a citation and an honorarium of $50,000 for each of the seven categories. Alivisatos and Bawendi will split the honorarium in their category.

The citation on the award shared by Alivisatos and Bawendi  reads: “For chemical synthesis and characterization of functional semiconducting nanocrystals, also known as quantum dots.” 

Alivisatos, who also serves as Berkeley Lab’s Associate Laboratory Director for Physical Sciences, is widely recognized as the man who altered the budding nanoscience/nanotechnology landscape with the creation of rod-shaped semiconductor nanocrystals that could be stacked to create nano-sized electronic devices. Until then, semiconductor nanocrystals - aggregates of anywhere from a few hundred to tens of thousands atoms that cluster into a crystalline form – came in one shape only, that of a sphere. Since that milestone, Alivisatos has broken through numerous other technical barriers that were impeding the advancement of nanotechnology development. In addition to creating semiconductor nanocrystals of different shapes and sizes, and a new generation of hybrid solar cells that combine nanotechnology with plastic electronics, he has also helped launch several successful nanotech startup companies and mentored a growing body of highly successful young nanoresearchers.  Alivisatos becomes Berkeley Lab's 27th recipient of a Lawrence Award.

The citation on Chakraborty’s award reads: “For his ground-breaking theoretical work leading to an understanding of the dynamics and function of the immunological synapse.

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Arup Chakraborty is MIT’s Robert T. Haslam Professor of Chemical Engineering, who previously held a joint appointment with Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley.

Chakraborty has been a pioneer in the use of computer simulations, also known as “experiments in silico,” for immunological research. While at Berkeley, he worked with a custom-configured cluster of micro-computers built by Berkeley Lab’s Scientific Cluster Support program to resolve a scientific controversy on how the body’s immune system gets sent into action. He and a multi-institutional team of collaborators showed that immunological synapse, an intercellular junction, controls the strength and duration of signals that can activate T cells, one of the body’s principle lines of defense against infections.  This and subsequent theoretical work has had widespread impact on experimental cellular and molecular immunology research.

The Lawrence Award was established by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1959. Recipients are chosen by independent panels from thousands of nominations by international scientists and research organizations.  In addition to Alivisatos, Bawendi and Chakraborty, other winners this year were Malcolm J. Andrews, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Texas A&M, College Station, Texas, for the national Security category; My Hang Huynh, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico, for the chemistry category; Marc Kamionkowski, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, for the physics category; John Zachara, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington, for the environmental science and technology category; and Steven Zinkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, for the nuclear technology category.  The recipients will receive their awards at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

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