B. Jayant Baliga of North Carolina State University was honored by President Obama on Friday as a recipient of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.

Baliga was cited for development and commercialization of the Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor and other power semiconductor devices extensively used in transportation, lighting, medicine, defense and renewable energy generation systems.

Baliga has been at NCSU since 1988 and has been named a distinguished university professor. He invested the insulated gate bipolar transistor during 15 years he spent at the General Electric Research and Development Center in Niskayuna, N.Y., near Schenectady.

He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of the IEEE.

In all, 12 people were cited by the president  for achievement in science, technology and innovation should make others feel embarrassed about their old science projects.

Remember the baking soda volcano?

“The volcano with the stuff coming out … with the baking soda inside,” Obama said at a White House awards ceremony where the National Medal of Science went to seven researchers while the National Medal of Technology and Innovation went to five inventors. “Apparently, that was not a cutting-edge achievement, even though our parents told us it was really terrific.”

The researchers were recognized for work that ranged from discovering a new property of the DNA helix to contributions to the development and use of transgenic mice — rodents given an extra dose of genetic material and used in medical research. (Watch video here.)

Obama pointed out that nine of the honorees were born in foreign countries but ended up in the U.S. “because America is the best place in the world to do the work that they do. And now more than ever, it’s critical that we make the investments necessary to keep it that way.”

He said too few of today’s college undergraduates are studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics — subjects that he says are critical to the future global competitiveness of the U.S. “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.

The awards

The National Medal of Science was created by statute in 1959 and is administered for the White House by the National Science Foundation. Awarded annually, the Medal recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to science and engineering. Nominees are selected by a committee of Presidential appointees based on their extraordinary knowledge in and contributions to chemistry, engineering, computing, mathematics, and the biological, behavioral/social, and physical sciences, according to a White House statement.

The National Medal of Technology and Innovation was created by statute in 1980 and is administered for the White House by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Patent and Trademark Office. The award recognizes those who have made lasting contributions to America’s competitiveness and quality of life and helped strengthen the Nation’s technological workforce. Nominees are selected by a distinguished independent committee representing the private and public sectors, the White House added.

A list of the medal recipients and descriptions of their work, according to the White House.

National Medal of Science:

  • Jacqueline K. Barton, California Institute of Technology, for discovering a new property of the DNA helix.
  • Ralph L. Brinster, University of Pennsylvania, for his work on the use of transgenic mice.
  • Shu Chien, University of California, San Diego, for work in cardiovascular physiology and bioengineering.
  • Rudolf Jaenisch, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for improving understanding of epigenetic regulation of gene expression, the biological mechanisms that affect how genetic information is variably expressed.
  • Peter J. Stang, University of Utah, for contributions to the development of organic supramolecular chemistry.
  • Richard A. Tapia, Rice University, for contributions in optimization theory and numerical analysis and for efforts to foster diversity and excellence in mathematics and science education.
  • Srinivasa S.R. Varadhan, New York University, for his work in probability theory.

National Medal of Technology and Innovation:

  • Rakesh Agrawal, Purdue University, for his record of innovations in improving the energy efficiency and reducing the cost of gas liquefaction and separation. The innovations have benefited electronic device manufacturing, liquefied gas production and the supply of industrial gases.
  • Baliga
  • C. Donald Bateman, Honeywell, for developing critical flight-safety sensors now used by aircraft worldwide, including ground proximity warning systems and systems to detect wind shear.
  • Yvonne C. Brill, RCA Astro Electronics (Retired), for innovation in rocket propulsion systems for geosynchronous and low-earth orbit communication satellites.
  • Michael F. Tompsett, TheraManager, for work including the design and development of the first charge-coupled device imagers.

Get the latest news alerts: Follow WRAL Tech Wire at Twitter.