Dr. Joseph DeSimone adds another prestigious award to a growing list of honors – this one being the Heinz Award from the Heinz Family Foundation. He calls the prize, which includes $250,000, a “humbling recognition.”

DeSimone, who is on sabbatical from his teaching roles at UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State as he runs 3D printing startup Carbon 3D in Silicon Valley, is one of five recipients to be recognized by the Heinz Foundation in Pittsburgh next month. The awards are presented in honor of the late U.S. Senator John Heinz.

“I am thrilled and honored!”

So DeSimone tells The Skinny in reaction to the award.

“Having grown up in Pennsylvania and recalling fondly the values that Senator Heinz promulgated, this is a humbling recognition for me and my current and former students and coworkers.”

Being given honors is nothing new for the serial inventor, who recently was named as part of the patent-winning team for new battery technology. He was honored by President Obama at the White House with the National Medal of Technology last year and is one of the few to earn the triple crown of academia – membership in the Institute of Medicine as well as Engineering, Sciences. And there are many others. 

To DeSimone, however, the Heinz honor is special given that it’s beyond the scope of science.

“I love how the Heinz Awards focus on really important societally impactful areas like the environment; arts and humanities; the human condition; public policy; and technology, the economy and employment,” he explains.

“These topics are near and dear to my heart and reflect how I think about the importance of research to make a difference.”

The foundation said DeSimone is being honored “for his achievements in developing and commercializing advanced technologies in fields such as green chemistry, nanoparticle fabrication, precision medicine and 3D printing, and for his leadership in convergence research, a new model integrating life, physical and engineering sciences to achieve innovations that positively impact human life in the areas of health, environment, energy and the economy.”

Why pick DeSimone?

Kim O’Dell, Director of The Heinz Awards for Heinz Family Foundation, cites several reasons for why DeSimone was selected.

“There are many brilliant scientists out there, but Dr. DeSimone is also a generous thought leader who cares about creating jobs, growing our country’s economy and positively impacting the communities where he works,” O’Dell says.

“Dr. DeSimone is known to be a fantastic educator and mentor to a very diverse group of students. He’s always thinking about how to do things differently, how things can be better – and he’s willing to share his ideas with students and other researchers. He is also an excellent communicator, which helps convey the enthusiasm and importance of his work to a variety of audiences.”

Teresa Heinz, chair of the Foundation, added in a statement:

“Dr. DeSimone’s achievements as a polymer scientist and entrepreneur leading to singular breakthroughs in areas such as 3D printing, nanomedicine and green chemistry are many, and the positive effects on how we live, create, work and treat our planet are only just beginning to be seen.

“We honor him with the Heinz Award in Technology, the Economy and Employment not only for these accomplishments, but also for his ability to work across the traditional boundaries of scientific discipline, and for taking knowledge gained out of the laboratory and into the places where it can have a positive impact.”

Philanthropy a focus

So what does DeSimone plan to do with the cash prize?

“Suzanne and I are certainly planning to keep my alma mater, Ursinus College and other institutions of higher learning front and center for our philanthropy along with some other special projects important to us that support disadvantaged young people,” he says, referring to his wife.

Ursinus College is a private liberal arts college located near Philadelphia. 

Other Heinz award recipients are:

  • Arts and Humanities: Natasha Trethewey, Evanston, Illinois
  • Human Condition: Angela Blanchard, Houston, Texas
  • Environment: Gregory Asner, Ph.D., Stanford, California
  • Public Policy: Mona Hanna-Attisha, M.D., Flint, Michigan