Founded in 1997, the Othmer Gold Medal is the Science History Institute’s preeminent award. Just like the medal’s namesake, Donald Othmer, winners of the Othmer Gold Medal must have made extraordinary contributions in not just one aspect of the materials sciences but in many. The roster of past winners includes some of the most versatile, multitalented individuals in the scientific community.
Donald Othmer (1904–1995) was a noted researcher, consultant, editor, engineer, inventor, philanthropist, professor, and coeditor of the Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology.
The Othmer Gold Medal is presented at Heritage Day, the Science History Institute’s annual celebration of the achievements and promise of the sciences and technologies that shape material culture. It is cosponsored by four affiliated organizations: the American Chemical Society, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, The Chemists’ Club, and the Société de Chimie Industrielle (American Section).
We are pleased to announce our 2020 Othmer Gold Medal winner will be Professor Dame Carol Robinson, the Dr. Lee’s Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oxford. The 2019 Othmer Gold Medal, presented on May 8, 2019, was awarded to Sangeeta Bhatia, Wilson Professor of Medical and Electrical Engineering, MIT; Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator; and Director, Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine.
2020 Medalist: Dame Carol Robinson
Dame Carol Robinson, the Dr. Lee’s Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oxford, will receive the 2020 Othmer Gold Medal at Heritage Day on May 6, 2020.
Robinson is recognized for using mass spectrometry to further research into the 3-D structure of proteins and their complexes. She is currently interested in uncovering the synergy of lipid and drug binding in order to explore new ways to characterize receptor-signaling complexes.
During her early research Robinson developed and applied mass spectrometry to show how protein folding could be monitored in the presence of molecular chaperones. This work prompted her to find new ways to preserve megadalton complexes in the gas phase and led her to uncover the heterogeneity and dynamics of numerous multiprotein complexes. More recently, she demonstrated the numerous roles played by lipids in regulating the structure and function of membrane protein assemblies.
Her research has received various international awards, with the most recent including the Royal Medal from the Royal Society, the Stein and Moore Award from the Protein Society, the 2019 Novozymes Prize from the Novo Nordisk Foundation, and the Field and Franklin Award from the American Chemical Society. Robinson is the current president of the Royal Society of Chemistry and a foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences. She holds nine honorary doctorates and was appointed a Dame Commander of the British Empire (DBE) in 2013 for her contributions to science and industry.
Robinson undertook her graduate education while working full time in industry, and she subsequently completed her PhD in two years at the University of Cambridge. After an eight-year career break to begin raising her three children, she returned to research at Oxford. In 2001 she became the first female professor in chemistry at the University of Cambridge, then returned to Oxford as the Dr. Lee’s Professor of Chemistry in 2009.
2019 Medalist: Sangeeta Bhatia
Flynn Larsen for Ludwig Cancer Research
Sangeeta Bhatia, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, the John J. and Dorothy Wilson Professor at MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and the director of the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, received the 2019 Othmer Gold Medal at Heritage Day on May 8, 2019.
Before joining MIT, Bhatia held a tenured position at the University of California, San Diego, and worked in industry at Pfizer, the Genetics Institute, ICI Pharmaceuticals, and Organogenesis.
In her roles as a biomedical researcher, an MIT professor, and a biotech entrepreneur, she works to adapt technologies developed in the computer industry for medical innovation. Trained as both a physician and an engineer, Bhatia leverages “tiny technologies” of miniaturization to yield such inventions as human microlivers that model human drug metabolism and liver disease, as well as responsive nanoparticles and nanoporous materials that can be engineered to diagnose, study, and treat a variety of diseases, including cancer. She and her more than 150 trainees have launched multiple biotechnology companies to improve human health.
As a passionate inventor and an advocate for diversity in science and engineering, Bhatia has been honored by the Lemelson-MIT Prize, known as the “Oscar for inventors,” and the Heinz Medal for groundbreaking inventions and advocacy for women in STEM fields. She has published over 180 manuscripts, which have been cited more than 18,000 times. In addition, she is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the American Academy of Arts and Science, the National Academy of Inventors, and Brown University’s Board of Trustees.
Bhatia received a BS in biomedical engineering from Brown University, an MS in mechanical engineering from MIT, a PhD in biomedical engineering from MIT, and an MD from Harvard Medical School.
Previous Winners of the Othmer Gold Medal
- Joshua Boger (2018)
- Richard Zare (2017)
- Mukesh Ambani (2016)
- Phillip Sharp (2015)
- Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw (2014)
- Harry Gray (2013)
- Marye Anne Fox (2012)
- Kazuo Inamori (2011)
- George Whitesides (2010)
- Ahmed Zewail (2009)
- Yuan Tseh Lee (2008)
- Thomas R. Cech (2007)
- Ronald Breslow (2006)
- James D. Watson (2005)
- Jon M. Huntsman (2004)
- George S. Hammond and John D. Baldeschwieler (2003)
- Robert S. Langer (2002)
- Gordon E. Moore (2001)
- Arnold Beckman, Special Millennium Edition (2000)
- Carl Djerassi (2000)
- P. Roy Vagelos (1999)
- Mary Lowe Good (1998)
- Ralph Landau (1997)
About the Sponsors
The American Chemical Society (ACS) is the world’s largest scientific organization. The society was established in 1876 and chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1937 to encourage in the broadest and most liberal manner the advancement of chemistry in all its branches.
The American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) is a professional, technical, and educational association. The AIChE was founded in 1908 and is dedicated to promoting excellence in the development and practice of chemical engineering in an ever-expanding array of disciplines.
The Chemists’ Club, established in 1898, is one of the oldest and most respected chemical organizations in the country. Members are engaged in management, marketing, processing, and research and development.
The Société de Chimie Industrielle was founded in 1918 as the American Section of a Paris-based international organization. Today it operates as an independent New York–based society with a mission to work with other chemical-industry organizations and promote understanding of the chemical and allied industries. Activities include a monthly CEO forum, a scholarship program, and the International Palladium Medal awarded to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to the industry.