Two alumni, Cato Laurencin ’80 and Michael Artin ’55, will receive presidential honors for their groundbreaking research. Laurencin has been selected as one of this year’s eight National Medal of Technology and Innovation honorees, while Artin is one of the nine National Medal of Science recipients. Also among the science honorees is Princeton ecology and evolutionary biology professor Simon Levin, whose research focuses on how large-scale patterns are maintained by small-scale behavioral and evolutionary factors at the level of individual organisms.
Laurencin ’80, a distinguished orthopaedic surgeon, was selected for his research on regrowing human tissue, including one innovative method for regrowing knee ligaments that was ranked among Scientific American's top 50 discoveries in 2007.
The technology medal will not be Laurencin’s first White House honor. He was the recipient of the Presidential Faculty Fellow Award under President Bill Clinton, and he also received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Math, and Engineering Mentoring from President Barack Obama.
Laurencin has had an impressive road to success. After graduating from Central High School in Philadelphia and then from Princeton with a B.S.E. in chemical engineering, he simultaneously earned his M.D. magna cum laude from Harvard Medical School and his Ph.D. in biochemical engineering/biotechnology from MIT.
Today, in addition to his role as a groundbreaking researcher, Laurencin is a professor at the University of Connecticut and holds leadership roles for several scientific institutes. He also pays his success forward as a mentor for underrepresented students and young doctors.
Artin ’55, a German-born professor emeritus at MIT, was recognized for his contributions to the field of algebraic geometry. The honor adds to Artin’s already impressive list of accomplishments. His innovative approach to mathematics has won him the American Mathematical Society’s lifetime achievement award, the Harvard Centennial Medal, and the Wolf Prize in Mathematics, among others.
In a December interview with WGBH Radio in Boston, Artin said he first learned of his nomination for the award when he was contacted for an FBI background check. But as time passed, he figured he had not been selected. “I sort of thought, ‘Oh well, too bad,’” he told the radio station.
But the story indeed will have a happy ending — albeit a delayed one. The White House ceremony, initially scheduled for January 23, was postponed due to a snowstorm. Artin, Laurencin, and Levin will be honored in the spring.