MIT community members honored with 2024 Franklin Institute Awards

Categories: Awards, Faculty, MIT News

Two professors and three additional alumni recognized for “dreaming up solutions to global challenges — advancing health, sustainability, and human connection.”

The Franklin Institute recently announced its 2024 cohort of award winners, as part of its bicentennial celebration. Since its inception, the Franklin Institute Awards Program has honored the most influential scientists, engineers, and inventors who have significantly advanced science and technology. It is one of the oldest comprehensive science awards in the world.

The 2024 honorees include Institute Professor and Vice Provost for Faculty Paula T. Hammond ’84 PhD ’93; Associate Professor Gabriela S. Schlau-Cohen; Research Affiliate Robert Metcalfe ’69; Mary Boyce SM ’84, PhD ’87; and Lisa Su ’90, SM ’91, PhD ’94. All 2024 Franklin Institute Award Laureates will be celebrated in a ceremony on April 18 at the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial of the Franklin Institute.

Paula Hammond was awarded the 2024 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Chemistry, one of the oldest comprehensive science awards in the world. The award cites her “innovative methods to create novel materials one molecular layer at a time and for applying these materials to areas ranging from drug delivery to energy storage.” Hammond’s techniques for creating thin polymer films and other materials using layer-by-layer assembly is groundbreaking. They can be used to build polymers with highly controlled architectures by alternately exposing a surface to positively and negatively charged particles. Materials can then be designed for many different applications, including drug delivery, regenerative medicine, noninvasive imaging, and battery technologies. Hammond is the recipient of MIT’s 2023-24 Killian Award and, in 2021, was named an Institute Professor, MIT’s highest faculty honor. Hammond is one of only 25 people who have been elected to all three U.S. National Academies — Engineering, Science, and Medicine.

Gabriela Schlau-Cohen earned the Benjamin Franklin NextGen Award for “illuminating the fundamental chemical processes that protect plants from sun damage, uncovering novel approaches to increasing crop yields.” Schlau-Cohen combines tools from chemistry, optics, biology, and microscopy to develop new approaches to probe dynamics. Her group focuses on dynamics in membrane proteins, particularly photosynthetic light-harvesting systems that are of interest for sustainable energy applications. Following a postdoc at Stanford University, Schlau-Cohen joined the Department of Chemistry faculty in 2015. She earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical physics from Brown University in 2003 followed by a PhD in chemistry at the University of California at Berkeley.

Robert Metcalfe ’69, a research affiliate of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and MIT Corporation life member emeritus, won the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Electrical Engineering for “his pioneering role in the design, development, and commercialization of Ethernet, an interface for networking and file sharing between computers.” MetCalfe is a graduate of MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) and is a former president of the MIT Alumni Association.

Mary Boyce SM ’84, PhD ’87 won the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Mechanical Engineering for “transformative contributions to our understanding of the physical behavior of polymers, materials made of long chains of molecules, leading to innovative product development of rubber and other soft materials.” A longtime MIT faculty member and former head of MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, Boyce is currently a professor of mechanical engineering and provost emerita of Columbia University.

Lisa Su ’90, SM ’91, PhD ’94, a graduate of MIT’s Department of EECS and the current president, CEO, and chair of AMD, won the Bower Award for Business Leadership for “her transformational leadership of AMD, a leader in high-performance and adaptive computing and one of the fastest growing semiconductor companies in the world.”