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Othmer Gold Medal

Founded in 1997, the Othmer Gold Medal is the Science History Institute’s preeminent award. The medal is presented each May during Heritage Day, an annual celebration of the achievements and promise of the sciences and technologies that shape material culture.

Professor Dame Carol Robinson, the Dr. Lee’s Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oxford, received the 2021 Othmer Gold Medal during our virtual Heritage Day celebration on May 5.

The medal is named after Donald Othmer (1904–1995), a noted researcher, consultant, editor, engineer, inventor, philanthropist, professor, and coeditor of the Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology. And just like the medal’s namesake, winners 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.

The Othmer Gold Medal 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).

2021 Medalist: Dame Carol Robinson

Professor Dame Carol Robinson is recognized worldwide for almost singlehandedly inventing the field of gas phase structural biology and for pioneering high-resolution native mass spectrometry to further research into the 3-D structure of proteins to drive drug discovery.

Robinson is the Dr. Lee’s Professor of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry at the University of Oxford. She was recently named the first director of the new Kavli Institute for NanoScience Discovery, a unique multidisciplinary center at Oxford combining structural biology with world-leading biochemistry, pathology, chemistry, physics, physiology, and engineering. In 2016, she founded and became chief scientific consultant to OMass Therapeutics, a private pharmaceutical company focused on structural mass spectrometry to discover novel medicines.

Robinson left school at 16 and accepted a laboratory technician position with Pfizer in Sandwich, Kent, where she first learned to use a spectrometer. Inspired, she studied part-time for seven years to get a first-class degree in chemistry while still working nights and weekends, and later completed her PhD in two years at the University of Cambridge. A fellowship at the University of Bristol Medical School followed before Robinson took an eight-year break from her career to raise her young children.

She went on to become the first female professor of chemistry at the University Oxford (1999–2001) and at the University of Cambridge (2001–2009). To date, she has supervised more than 50 PhD graduates (including 25 women) and more than 60 postdoctoral fellows (including 26 women), and takes an active role in mentoring younger women through the tenure process and encouraging them to stay in science.

Among Robinson’s many honors are the Royal Medal “A” from the Royal Society, the Novozymes Prize from the Novo Nordisk Foundation, the Anfinsen Award from the Protein Society, the L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science International Awards, and the Field and Franklin Award from the American Chemical Society.

Robinson is the past 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 Order of the British Empire in 2013 for her contributions to science and industry.

Previous Winners of the Othmer Gold Medal

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.