National Medal of Science

Elizabeth Thompson, MIT News Office
November 16, 2005

headshot of Stephen J. LippardPresident Bush has awarded two MIT faculty members the National Medal of Science, this nation’s highest science honor.

Stephen J. Lippard, the Arthur Amos Noyes Professor of Chemistry, and Institute Professor Phillip A. Sharp were among eight honorees who were awarded the medals at a White House ceremony Feb. 13, 2006.

The White House announced the recipients on Monday, Nov. 14, 2005.

Lippard was cited “for pioneering research in bioinorganic chemistry, including the interaction of metal compounds with DNA, preparation of synthetic models for metalloproteins, and structural and mechanistic studies of methane monooxygenase.”

“I am very pleased to receive this honor for it recognizes the work of the many wonderful graduate students and post-doctoral associates who have contributed to the science that we were able to accomplish,” Lippard said. “It was most unexpected.”

Sharp said, “I am greatly honored to receive the National Medal of Science. It is the highest honor this country bestows on a scientist and the legendary names of previous winners make the recognition very special. I want to thank MIT and my colleagues for creating such a productive environment for education and research.”

Sharp’s current research includes investigations into RNA interference (RNAi), a method of turning off genes using short pieces of RNA. In 1993 he shared the Nobel Prize in physiology/medicine for discovering that some of the genes of higher organisms are “split,” or present in several distinct segments along the DNA molecule.

The National Medal of Science was established in 1959 to be given to individuals “deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to knowledge in the physical, biological, mathematical or engineering sciences.” In 1980 Congress expanded this recognition to include the social and behavioral sciences.

The two join 43 other current and past members of the MIT community who have been awarded the National Medal of Science.