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World-Renowned Harvard Chemistry Professor to Speak at Kent State, Oct. 9

Posted Oct. 2, 2012

On Oct. 9, Kent State University will host a seminar by Harvard Chemistry Professor George M. Whitesides at the Kent Student Center Kiva. The seminar, “Simplicity as a Component of Invention,” will begin at 3:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public. 

Photo of George WhitesidesWith more than 950 scholarly scientific articles, Whitesides is one of the most cited scientists in the world for his work in the areas of NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) spectroscopy, organometallic chemistry, molecular self-assembly, soft lithography, microfabrication, microfluidics and nanotechnology. He is currently the Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor at Harvard, one of only 21 university professorships at the institution. He is listed as an inventor on more than 50 patents and has co-founded more than 12 companies with a combined market capitalization of more than $20 billion. 

One of his many current research and development projects, the fabrication of a medical diagnostic lab-on-a-chip, has gained international notoriety for its simple, effective design. The low-cost “lab-on-a-chip,” made of paper and carpet tape, can be made for only one cent. He has co-founded a nonprofit called Diagnostics for All that aims to provide dirt-cheap diagnostic healthcare devices to people in the developing world.

“Complexity is relatively simple to think about (at least for academics); simplicity is more complex,” Whitesides said. “This seminar will consider simplicity, together with an idea we call stackability, as a parameter in research, using two examples – one from ongoing large-scale technology, and one from our own research.” 

Whitesides received his A.B. degree from Harvard College in 1960 and earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 1964. He began his independent career as an assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1963 and remained there until 1982. While at MIT, he played a pivotal role in the development of the Corey-House-Posner-Whitesides reaction, which now bears his name. In 1982, Whitesides moved his laboratory to the Department of Chemistry at Harvard University. He has served tenures as chairman of the chemistry department (1986–89) and associate dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (1989–92).

Beyond his scientific research, Whitesides is also active in public service. He participated in the National Academies’ report “Rising Above the Gathering Storm,” which addressed U.S. competitiveness in science and technology. In 2002, he served as chairman of the panel that evaluated the state of chemical research in the United Kingdom. Their findings were summarized what is now known as the Whitesides Report.

Whitesides has served on advisory committees for the National Science Foundation, NASA and the Department of Defense. He also has served on the National Research Council in various capacities since 1984, including stints on the Committee on Science and Technology for Counter Terrorism and the Committee on Nanotechnology for the Intelligence Community.

Among his many awards, Whitesides is the recipient of the American Chemical Society’s Award in Pure Chemistry (1975), the Arthur C. Cope Award (1995), National Medal of Science (1998), the Kyoto Prize in Materials Science and Engineering (2003), the Dan David Prize (2005), the Welch Award in Chemistry (2005), the Priestley Medal (2007), the Dreyfus Prize in the Chemical Sciences (2009) and the 2009 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Chemistry.

Whitesides is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, and the National Academy of Engineering. He is also a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

To learn more about Whitesides, go to the Whitesides Research Group at http://gmwgroup.harvard.edu.

To watch a video of Whitesides’ TED talk from February 2010 on “Toward a Science of Simplicity,” visit http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/george_whitesides_toward_a_science_of_simplicity.html.

For more information about research at Kent State, visit www.kent.edu/research.


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Media Contacts:
Jim Maxwell, jmaxwel2@kent.edu, 330-672-0731
Emily Vincent, evincen2@kent.edu, 330-672-8595