A materials scientist who worked for decades at the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and who continues to serve today as an Emeritus Senior NIST Fellow at that agency’s Materials Science and Engineering Laboratory was last week awarded the 2011 Kyoto Prize in Advanced Technology—Japan's highest private award for contributions to the betterment of society.
Dr. John W. Cahn was cited for developing the theory of “spinodal decomposition,” which has greatly helped scientists and engineers predict the optimal microstructures of metal alloys and maximize their utility for a wide range of applications. His theory has helped scientists design and produce metals, glass, semiconductors, polymers, and other materials with unique properties, including extreme strength, thermal conductivity, pore permeability, heat resistance, and magnetism. Dr. Cahn is also an affiliate professor at the University of Washington and was a recipient of the 1998 National Medal of Science.
Dr. Cahn is an extraordinary example of the countless dedicated scientists and engineers who have devoted their careers to public service within the Federal Government. From the Manhattan Project, Space Program, and Human Genome Project to the cutting-edge research taking place at our National Laboratories, Federal scientists and engineers have transformed our Nation’s investments in scientific and technological research into products, and jobs that have made America the world leader it is today. Dr. Cahn began his Federal service in 1977—after stints at the University of Chicago, General Electric, and MIT—by joining NIST’s precursor agency, the National Bureau of Standards. More than 30 years later he continues to inspire his colleagues in the Federal workforce and contribute to the Administration’s commitment to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build America’s competitors.
The Kyoto Prize is an international award to honor those who have contributed significantly to the scientific, cultural, and spiritual betterment of mankind. The Prize is presented annually in each of three categories: Advanced Technology, Basic Sciences, and Arts and Philosophy. The Advanced Technology category encompasses achievements in electronics, biotechnology and medical technology, information science, and—as in the case this year—materials science and engineering. Dr. Cahn will join the winners in the other two categories at an award ceremony to be held in Japan in November.
Congratulations to Dr. Cahn on this profound recognition, and for serving as such a stellar example to others pursuing advances in science and engineering.
Pedro Espina is Executive Director of the National Science and Technology Council