Bestowed annually upon a select few of the Nation’s most outstanding scientists, the Fermi Award recognizes individuals for their distinguished leadership, accomplishments, and service related to science and research supported by the Energy Department. Established in 1956, the award is named in honor of the Nobel-Prize-winning physicist who in 1942 achieved the first nuclear chain reaction, initiating the atomic age.
This afternoon, President Obama greeted the latest winners: Dr. Allen J. Bard, of The University of Texas at Austin, and Dr. Andrew Sessler of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. OSTP Director John Holdren introduced the winners in the Oval Office, along with Energy Department Secretary Ernest Moniz. Later in the day, the awardees were honored at a formal ceremony at the Energy Department headquarters.
Dr. Bard, known by many as the “father of modern electrochemistry,” helped lay the groundwork for critical advances in batteries, fuel cells, and solar photoelectrochemistry—work that has emerged as having great importance in the modern field of renewable energy. Dr. Bard’s scientific achievements previously earned him the National Medal of Science, the American Chemical Society’s Priestly Medal, the Welch Foundation Award in Chemistry, and the Wolf Foundation Prize. His research has led to the publication of more than 850 peer-reviewed papers, 75 book chapters, and 23 patents, and he has served as a mentor and collaborator to 83 Ph.D. students, 18 M.S. students, 190 postdoctoral associates, and many more young scientists.
Dr. Sessler has worked extensively to promote energy efficiency and sustainable energy research and was a pioneer in the development and use of atomic particle accelerators as powerful tools of scientific discovery. Dr. Sessler’s advocacy in the field of energy efficiency research dates back to the 1950s and 1960s at the Atomic Energy Commission and the Energy Department; later, as the Director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, he established new divisions for energy and environmental research. He is widely recognized for his fierce advocacy in support of scientific freedom and for human rights of scientists around the globe.
In a landscape shifting and evolving as rapidly as the energy sector is today, it is vitally important that the United States continues to lead in energy-related scientific research and innovation. OSTP salutes these two Fermi Award winners, not only for the remarkable impacts they have had in their respective fields but also for the influence they have had—and the inspiration they have showered—on countless other scientists.
Fae Jencks is a Confidential Assistant at the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy