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Obama Recognizes Scientists, Inventors

October 21, 2011

President Obama awarded National Medals of Science and National Medals of Technology and Innovation to 12 scientists, engineers and inventors in a ceremony Friday at the White House.

Obama cited the recipients for "exploring the very frontiers of human knowledge" and making the world a better place.

"...thanks to the men and women on the stage, we are one step closer to curing diseases like cancer and Parkinson's. Because of their work, soldiers can see the enemy at night and grandparents can see the pictures of their grandchildren instantly and constantly. Planes are safer, satellites are cheaper, and our energy grid is more efficient, thanks to the breakthroughs that they have made," Obama said.

But he said the United States was struggling to keep up with other countries in educating the next generation of scientists, mathematicians and engineers.

"Right now, unfortunately, barely more than one in 10 of all undergraduate students are enrolled in what we call the STEM subjects -- science, technology, engineering and math -- areas that will be critical if America is going to compete for the jobs of the future. And that's troubling, because no matter how many great minds we attract from around the world, it won't be enough if we can't grow some here at home," Obama said.

National Medals of Science were given to seven scientists from across the country, including New York, Utah, and California. Their work included research on genes, cloning and probability theory, among other areas. Recipients included:

* Jacqueline Barton, Pasadena, Calif., an expert in DNA repair.
* Ralph Brinster, Philadelphia, Penn., who makes genetically engineered mice.
* Shu Chien, San Diego, Calif., an expert on heart physiology.
* Rudolf Jaenisch, Cambridge, Mass., a leading cloning expert.
* Peter Stang, Salt Lake City, Utah, an organic chemist.
* Richard Tapia, Houston, Texas, who studied numerical analysis.
* Srinivasa S.R. Varadhan, New York, N.Y., for work in probability theory.

Five people received National Medals of Technology and Innovation for projects ranging from liquefied gas production, flight safety, and rocket propulsion systems. Recipients included:

* Energy efficiency expert Rakesh Agrawal, West Lafayette, Ind.
* Semiconductor developer B. Jayant Baliga, Raleigh, N.C.
* Aircraft safety sensor designer Donald Bateman, Redmond, Wash.
* Rocket scientist Yvonne Brill, Skillman, N.J.
* Electronic technology pioneer Michael Tompsett, Murray Hill, N.J.

Obama used the event to announce a new website to help inventors commercialize their inventions.

"It's important to recognize that work, and to help make it easier for inventors and innovators like them to bring their work from the lab to the marketplace and create jobs," Obama said.

The medals are the highest honor awarded by the U.S. government to people in scientific and technology fields.

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