The Connecticut Medals

The Connecticut Medal of Science and the Connecticut Medal of Technology are the state’s highest honors for scientific and technological achievement in fields crucial to Connecticut’s economic competitiveness. Modeled after the National Medal of Science and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation respectively, these awards are by the Office of the Governor, with the assistance of the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering, in alternating years.

Connecticut Medal of Science

Nancy H. Ruddle   2021

John Rodman Paul Professor Emerita, Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases and Immunobiology
Yale School of Public Health and Yale School of Medicine

The Connecticut Medal of Science is the state’s highest honor for scientific achievement in fields crucial to Connecticut’s economic competitiveness and social well-being.

Modeled after the National Medal of Science, this award is bestowed by the State of Connecticut, with the assistance of the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering, in alternate years with the Connecticut Medal of Technology.

This award is bestowed by the state of Connecticut, with the assistance of the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering.

Nancy H. Ruddle, John Rodman Paul Professor Emerita, Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases and Immunobiology, Yale School of Public Health and Yale School of Medicine, has been selected as the 2021 recipient of the Connecticut Medal of Science.

Nancy H. Ruddle, 2021 CT Medal of Science
NANCY H. RUDDLE
John Rodman Paul Professor Emerita, Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases and Immunobiology, Yale School of Public Health and Yale School of Medicine

Professor Ruddle is a pioneering immunologist who discovered lymphotoxin, an immune signaling molecule or cytokine, and demonstrated its roles and mechanisms in cytotoxicity, autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Type 1 diabetes, and in lymph node development. Her work was fundamental to the understanding of tertiary lymphoid organs, accumulations of lymphoid cells that are damaging in autoimmunity but can be key to defense against microorganisms and tumors.

Professor Ruddle’s discoveries have profound implications for the understanding and treating of autoimmune diseases, organ transplantation, and cancer. Before the tools of molecular biology were available, she developed T cell clones and realized that the cytotoxic factor she discovered was a combination of the cytokines lymphotoxin and tumor necrosis factor (TNF). Lymphotoxin was one of the first cytokines to be discovered; now there are hundreds. Her findings that cytokines can induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) and contribute to autoimmune diseases changed thinking in the field.

“Connecticut has a rich history of being home to some of the nation’s leading scientists who are making revolutionary discoveries that have global impacts,” Governor Ned Lamont said. “Our state’s scientific community reflects our legacy of research and innovation. Professor Ruddle’s paradigm-shifting contributions to our understanding of the immune system, and infectious and autoimmune diseases is a shining example. On behalf of the entire state, I want to thank Professor Ruddle for her more than 50-year career — all of which has been spent in Connecticut — and congratulate her on receiving Connecticut’s highest honor for scientific achievement.”

Professor Ruddle earned a BA in Zoology from Mt. Holyoke College and a Ph.D. in Microbiology from Yale University. She received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Cytokine Society and was its President and has served as a role model for and made numerous contributions throughout her career to advancing women. Dr. Ruddle co-authored a textbook on Immunoepidemiology, the first textbook written on this subject. She has authored or co-authored over 200 publications, spanning primary research, reviews, and commentaries. Her publication on the crucial role of lymphotoxin in lymphoid organ development was chosen as a “Pillars in Immunology” paper in the Journal of the American Association of Immunologists and the paper led to a new field of study.

Dr. Ruddle and her late husband, Dr. Frank Ruddle raised 2 daughters in New Haven – Amy Ruddle Shohet of San Carlos, CA, and Kate Ruddle of Montpelier, VT. Dr. Ruddle has 3 grandchildren-Alexis, Calista, and Leo Shohet.

Pasko Rakic   2019

Dorys McConnell Duberg Professor of Neuroscience and Professor of Neurology
Yale School of Medicine
Pasko Rakic, MD, PhD
Connecticut Medal of Science Winner Pasko Rakic with CASE President Baki Cetgen, left, Connecticut Department of Administrative Services Commissioner Josh Geballe, 2nd from right, and Robert Schoelkopf, 2017 Medalist. (Photo: A. Bramante and K.Otsuka)

As a child during World War II in the former Yugoslavia, Pasko Rakic relied on reading to help escape the tragedy and sadness of losing his grandfather, uncle, and cousins. Although his parents did not have university educations, they loved and collected books. An avid reader, Rakic often read subjects above his age level, including entries from the encyclopedia. He also enjoyed painting and creating wooden models of trucks and airplanes, particularly since toys were not available during the war. Later, Rakic attended an Austro-Hungarian-style high school that emphasized classics, literature, and philosophy. He was an exceptional student who enjoyed vigorous discussions, often taking positions against the authorities and established dogmas. His independent thinking eventually led him to a medical breakthrough in the understanding of neural cell development, making him the “single most important contributor to our current understanding of the development of the cerebral cortex.”

Professor Rakic entered medical school at the University of Belgrade, where he was exposed to the work of Nobel Prize winner Santiago Ramón y Cajal, considered the father of neuroscience. Professor Ramón y Cajal wrote articles accompanied by detailed illustrations of complex nerve cells that sparked Rakic’s interest. After receiving his MD, Rakic began a neurosurgery residency in Belgrade, and in 1962 he was awarded a Fulbright fellowship in neurosurgery at Harvard University. There, he met neuropathologist Paul Yakovlev, who introduced him to the “joys of studying the development of the human brain.” Since Rakic believed he could achieve a deeper understanding of neural development through research rather than surgery, he returned to the University of Belgrade and earned a Ph.D. in developmental biology and genetics in 1969. His thesis provided the first experimental evidence that “cerebral cortex neurons do not generate locally but arrive in the cortex through a process of migration.” He returned to Harvard and continued research that led to the discovery that stem cells, which produce neurons, guide their progeny to proper positions in the brain. Professor Rakic “defined molecular mechanisms and proposed nomenclature for these developmental events that have been adopted as a generic blueprint for the evolution of the vertebrate nervous system.”

In 1978, Rakic was recruited to Yale as the Dorys McConnell Duberg Professor of Neuroscience and Professor of Neurology. At Yale, he continued to study brain development, discovering evidence that the number of neurons and their connections decline selectively to adult levels during puberty and adolescence. The processes he has identified influence our understanding of developmental disorders of childhood, including autism and intellectual disabilities. His observations have also informed our understanding of psychiatric and neurologic disorders of adulthood including schizophrenia, dementia, and epilepsy.

Professor Rakic is one of the founding recipients of the Kavli Prize, considered the most prominent neuroscience prize in the world. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, American Academy of Science, National Academy of Medicine, and of numerous foreign academies. He has mentored some of the most transformative neuroscientists in the world, including Professor Carla Schatz, Director of the Bio-X Initiative at Stanford University; Professor Pat Levitt, Simms/Mann Professor of Developmental Neuroscience at USC; and Professor Nenad Sestan at Yale, who leads the nation’s largest initiative on the molecular signatures of primate and human brain development.

Professor Rakic advises young people to select “some basic conceptual question and/or specific disease, rather than focusing on the methodology and the latest techniques.” As he notes, methods change, but basic biological questions remain, and “we in basic science are lucky, like artists, to work on not what we are told, but on what we are interested in.” He would like to someday be remembered as a self-made scientist who took advantage of the freedom and opportunities that were offered in the United States to pursue his interests and to do what he desired.

This summary, written by Wendy Swift, was produced for the Connecticut Science Center Medal Project.

Robert Schoelkopf   2017

Sterling Professor of Applied Physics and Physics and Director of the Yale Quantum Institute

Robert Schoelkopf, PhD
2017 Connecticut Medal of Science recipient Robert Schoelkopf, Sterling Professor of Applied Physics and Physics and director of the
Yale Quantum Institute, with CASE President Laura Grabel, left, and Connecticut Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman. [Photo: Frank Labanca]
Professor Robert Schoelkopf, Sterling Professor of Applied Physics and Physics and Director of the Yale Quantum Institute, has been selected as the 2017 recipient of the Connecticut Medal of Science for his seminal contributions to the entire field of quantum science and to the new field of circuit quantum electrodynamics.

Schoelkopf is a leading experimental physicist, whose research has helped establish the field of quantum computation with solid-state devices. Together with his faculty collaborators at Yale, Michel Devoret and Steven Girvin, Schoelkopf has pioneered the approach of integrating superconducting qubits with microwave cavities, known as Circuit Quantum Electrodynamics. This Yale architecture, in which quantum information can be distributed by microwave signals on wires, is widely believed to be the most scalable path to useful quantum computers in the near future and has been adopted by a majority of other groups. Some of Schoelkopf’s other inventions include the Radio Frequency Single-Electron Transistor and the Shot Noise Thermometer.

“The State of Connecticut is proud to award the Connecticut Medal of Science to Robert Schoelkopf, who has made pioneering contributions to the field of quantum science,” said Governor Dannel P. Malloy. “I am particularly pleased that Rob, a world leader in this field, is right here in Connecticut.”

In addition to his scientific accomplishments, Professor Schoelkopf is a dedicated advisor and mentor to graduate and postdoctoral students, currently supervising 5 postdoctoral scholars and 11 graduate students; he has mentored an additional 30 post-undergraduate scholars and students in the past. Additionally, he has reached out to the non-scientific community about this complex field and frequently is invited to present talks and seminars around the world. He is regularly called on to advise industry and federal agencies on the development and commercialization of quantum technologies, and he is a co-founder of Quantum Circuits, Inc., a Connecticut-based company working to deliver the first quantum computers. Professor Schoelkopf earned a Ph.D. in Physics from the California Institute of Technology. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering, he also received numerous awards and honors including recognition as a Fellow of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Physical Society. He has authored 145 papers in the field.

Professor Schoelkopf is a member of the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering.

Joan A. Steitz   2015

Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator
Joan Seitz, 2015 CT Medal of Science
Joan A. Steitz, Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at the Yale School of Medicine and Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, accepts the 2015 Connecticut Medal of Science. (Photo: Frank Labanca)

Joan A. Steitz was honored with the 2015 Connecticut Medal of Science for her seminal contributions to biology. Dr. Steitz is the Sterling Professor of
Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at the Yale School of Medicine and an investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Best known for her pioneering work in RNA, Dr. Steitz is an international leader in describing the molecular events involved in creating messenger RNA (mRNA). Messenger RNA transcribes information coded on DNA and delivers it to ribosomes, which translate the information needed to produce proteins. Her lab discovered tiny particles in cells called small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (snRNPs) and described their role in splicing, an essential step in creating mRNA. By employing human autoantibodies as probes for the snRNPs in in vitro pre-mRNA splicing reactions, she showed that the particular snRNPs carry out precise steps in pre-mRNA splicing, thus demonstrating that snRNPs were essential for making mRNA for the first time. This was a fundamental contribution to biology as it explained a critical step in the expression of almost all eukaryotic genes. With estimates that 70% of human genetic diseases can be traced to defects in pre-mRNA splicing, Steitz’s work also has a significant impact on understanding the pathogenesis of human diseases.

In her laboratory, Professor Steitz continues to explore RNA structure and function. Her research includes defining the functions of other noncoding RNPs, such as those that guide the modification of ribosomal RNAs and several produced by transforming herpesviruses. Today, her studies of noncoding RNAs include microRNAs.

In addition to her scientific accomplishments, Professor Steitz is a dedicated teacher of biochemistry to Yale undergraduates and a mentor and research advisor to graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. She is recognized for her commitment to the training and advancement of women scientists, in particular, and her inspired leadership led to a renaissance at Yale that made the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry one of the nation’s strongest in molecular biology.

A graduate of Antioch College, Steitz holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology from Harvard University. Steitz has authored nearly 300 papers, many of them in the highest impact journals (Science, Nature, Cell, and PHAS). She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Steitz is the recipient of over 60 awards, including the National Medal of Science (1986).

Thomas A. Steitz   2013

Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry
Professor of Chemistry Yale University
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator
Thomas A. Steitz 2013 CT Medal of Science
Professor  Thomas Steitz  of  Yale  University  shakes  hands  with  Governor  Dannel   the  mechanisms  by  which  P.  Malloy  after  receiving  the  2013 Connecticut  Medal  of  Science  at  the  38th  the  proteins  and  nucleic  Annual  Meeting  and  Dinner  of  the  Connecticut  Academy of Science  and  acids  involved  in  the  Engineering.  Steitz  was  honored  for  his  Nobel-­‐winning  work  on  the  structure  central dogma  of  and  function  of  the  ribosome,  the  protein  making  factory  that  is  key  to  the  molecular  biology  carry  function  of  all life.    (Photo:  Frank  Labanca).

Curiosity is at the heart of all scientists, believes Professor Thomas A. Steitz. He recalls always wondering about what gives substances color and later, while a student at Lawrence College in Appleton, Wisconsin, he learned about the structure of molecules that produce color. Over the years, Professor Steitz’s curiosity led him to “want to understand how the structures of biological macromolecules can explain how they work,” opening the door to our current understanding of the mechanisms by which the proteins and nucleic acids involved in the central dogma of molecular biology carry  out  gene  expression, from replication and recombination of the DNA genome, to its transcription into mRNA, followed by the translation of mRNA into protein. Most recently, Professor Steitz’s work on the ribosome has led to the development of new classes of antibiotics to treat multiple-­‐drug resistant bacterial infections. Steitz, Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale, is widely published and has earned numerous awards and recognitions including the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry which he shared with Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and Ada Yonath. In 2001 Professor Steitz and his colleagues founded Rib-­‐X Pharmaceuticals, a company developing antibiotics to treat tuberculosis, methicillin-­‐resistant Staphylococcus,  and Escherichia coli. In 2013, Thomas A. Steitz is honored with the Connecticut Medal of Science.

Thomas Steitz was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1940. His father was the head of personnel at the Milwaukee County Hospital while his mother stayed home to raise Thomas and his two younger brothers and two younger sisters. In junior high school, he became a serious saxophone player and even considered majoring in music; however, at Lawrence College, the influence of Professor Rober Rosenberg changed the course of events, helping Tom “understand the world around him because he introduced to us the concepts of atomic orbitals and bonding and how studying chemistry at the physical chemical atomic level allowed us to understand  the properties of chemicals.” Tom continued his education at Harvard University where, in 1966, he earned his PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology. After Harvard, he traveled to Cambridge, England, and worked in the Cambridge Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB), annually attending a week-­long meeting known as “Crick week” because “Francis [Crick] would sit in the front row and frequently ask many questions.” In 1970, Frederic Richards from Yale visited the LMB, and Tom asked if there might be a spot for him at Yale. There was. At Yale, Professor Steitz teamed with other faculty to form the Yale Center for Structural Biology, where his efforts focused on the study of the ribosome, “the major target of antibiotics.” Professor Steitz explains that the ribosomes are the binding site for 50% of the antibiotics used world-wide; however, because ribosomes mutate, a mutant ribosome can become resistant to antibiotics, requiring researchers to continuously develop new antibiotics. Professor Steitz is quick to point out that all the “intelligent design” that researchers produce cannot compete with the “evolution of bacteria.”  Fortunately, ribosome research “allows us to have more information to enable the design of antibiotics.” Professor Steitz is gravely concerned about the misuse of antibiotics and the potential worldwide catastrophe of drug-resistant bacteria.

Professor Steitz reflects that each of us wants to be remembered for doing good things and for being a good person. “I’ve had a lot of people in my lab who have gone on to do good things, and I hope they are happy for having been in my lab.” In particular, he would like to be remembered for the same qualities as Frederic Richards, the 1995 Connecticut Medal of Science Award, whom he sees as his hero. Fred Richards was “just an exemplary scientist, person and leader and we loved to follow him. I would like to be a Fred Richards who had the insight and wisdom to hire and cultivate other scientists.”

Steven L. Suib   2011

University of Connecticut Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor
Head, Chemistry Department
University of Connecticut

Steven L. Suib came from a family where “everything and everyone was believed to be important.” His parents emphasized respect—regardless of culture, religion or background—and, at times, brought hitchhikers home for a warm meal. His grandfather, an artist, travelled the world painting portraits of notable leaders, providing a role model for an independent, adventurous life. Growing up in rural northwestern New York State, Steve was introduced to the natural world by his father, an entomologist, as they canoed remote areas and collected butterflies or waited into the darkness of night to photograph moths. Steven’s earliest introduction to chemistry took place in the family’s garage, where he mixed formulas for his father’s pest control business. These unique and varied influences coalesced to form Professor Suib’s “interest in understanding the relationships between many different things and solving fundamental problems to create a better world.” Dr. Steven Suib is a Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor at the University of Connecticut and the 2011 recipient of the Connecticut Medal of Science Award.

During high school, Suib was mentored by two outstanding chemistry teachers: Nora Keyser and Nancy Rodriguez. They allowed him to work in the lab “making solutions, grading papers, setting up experiments, and generally learning about the field of chemistry.” Later, he attended the State University of New York at Fredonia, where, for a very brief time, he majored in music. During his freshman year, a geology elective convinced him to combine his passion for the outdoors with his interest in chemistry. A later turning point occurred when he performed research involving crystal growth of semiconductors and ways to study these materials. Steven graduated magna cum laude in 1975 with a double major in geology and chemistry. His initial plan was to teach high school, but encouraged by his advisor, Paul Weller, Suib pursued doctoral studies at the University of Illinois at Champaign Urbana, where he earned a PhD in chemistry and completed coursework equivalent to a master’s degree in geology.

For the past ten years, Professor Suib has headed the chemistry department at the University of Connecticut. His work focuses on developing new approaches to solve fundamental problems, specifically in the field of catalysis and materials science and involves the synthesis of novel porous semiconductors used to make new chemicals for use in lithium batteries, oil spills, and other applications. The central question Professor Suib asks is, “Can we make materials that no one else has made using relatively simple materials?” In his quest to “make new things,” Suib and his team are investigating the creation of synthetic fuels using carbon dioxide—a greenhouse gas—and water, research that could contribute to both reduced greenhouse gases and the development of alternative energy sources. Professor Suib states, “It’s not easy to find ways around Mother Nature” and that is where inorganic catalysts that mimic nature become crucial to producing key results. His research team is working closely with VeruTEK Technologies, Inc, a Connecticut company dedicated to “innovative green technologies,” to clean up contaminated industrial and commercial properties and landfills using microemulsion catalysis that converts hazardous and toxic compounds into harmless materials. Other current research involves synthesizing high temperature ceramic fiber composites used for aircraft engine parts.

Over the years Professor Suib has collaborated with industrial researchers in Connecticut such as United Technologies Research Center, Pratt and Whitney, Hamilton Standard, Olin, Yardney Technical Products, Pfizer, ATM, APSI, VeruTEK, Rogers Corporation, Uniroyal, Crompton and others. He is also the Head of the Pratt Center of Excellence in Ceramic Chemistry. These efforts have contributed immeasurably to Connecticut’s technological and economic development.

His advice to future generations is the same as his father gave to him – “recognize that everything is interrelated and important.”  Professor Suib believes “if we can work hard, develop skills, and encourage creativity, then our most difficult problems can be solved.”

Robert R. Birge   2009

Harold S. Schwenk, Sr., Distinguished Chair in Chemistry
University of Connecticut

In 1967, a Yale student wrote a wistful melody celebrating love’s tender memories. This song, Time After Time, became the second most frequently performed song by the renowned à cappella group, the Yale Whiffenpoofs. The student composer and Whiffenpoof musical director, Robert "Pitchpipe" Birge (Yale ’68), continued to compose — and went on to complete a few other noteworthy accomplishments as well, including creating a protein-based disk drive in1982, pioneering the use of spectroscopic and theoretical methods to study biological molecules, and most recently, working to develop an artificial retina that will bring functional sight to those who would otherwise be blind. Robert R. Birge is the Harold S. Schwenk Sr. Distinguished Chair of Chemistry, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Connecticut and the 2009 recipient of the Connecticut Medal of Science.

Bob grew up on Long Island. His mother was a musician and his father a teacher who, while encouraging his interest in music and science, “didn’t push him in any way.” When he was 12, he wrote his own music, enjoying improvising and creating rather than traditional practice routines. He enrolled at Yale as a chemistry and music major. During a sophomore year music competition, his concerto was well received but did not earn top placement. He recalls that his professor did him “an enormous favor by pushing him towards the sciences.” After graduating with a B.S. in chemistry, Bob began graduate work at Wesleyan University. Studying chemical physics, he worked under the mentorship of Peter Leermakers on “high resolution molecular spectroscopy of retinals” to better understand how “light drives the isomerization of the retinal chromophore,” and creates a change in the geometry of protein molecules responsible for vision. Dr. Birge says he was always interested in understanding how systems operate at the molecular level and then moving to investigate the larger system functions, whereas many other scientists work in the opposite direction — analyzing the function of a system in order to understand the underlying mechanisms.

His research on protein molecules and their response to light led him to work with a 3.5 billion-year-old archaeal protein called bacteriorhodopsin, found worldwide in salt marshes. This simple protein is among the earliest life forms converting sunlight into energy and is similar to the visual protein rhodopsin. Researching bacteriorhodopsin provides insight into understanding how rhodopsin activates the nerve impulses essential for vision, paving the way for the development of an artificial retina.

Dr. Birge believes that his greatest contribution is the development of the artificial retina, now five to ten years from completion. His next most valuable contribution, he says, was as musical director of the Whiffenpoofs — and Time After Time. He suggests that young people “follow their dreams and find something to do that genuinely interests them” because if “you love something you will find your niche” and that passion will pull you through difficult times. Dr. Birge advises young people to “stay open to new opportunities and not always listen to your parents,” but do find ways to make meaningful contributions. Dr. Birge certainly has learned from his own experience; his vast contributions include over 225 refereed articles. He served on the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering Committee on Energy Alternatives and Conservation in 2007, established a new center for Nanobionics at the University of Connecticut, was elected to the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering and the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2005, earned the 3M Award of Canada in Physical Chemistry and the Connecticut Innovations 2001 Annual Technology Award. Dr. Birge gives of himself tirelessly in his role as teacher and colleague, providing the University of Connecticut with an outstanding program that attracts top students and faculty to the state.

Michael P. Snyder   2007

Lewis B. Cullman Professor of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry
Director of the Yale Center for Genomics and Proteomics
Yale University

“Doing science is like doing puzzles,” notes Dr. Michael Snyder, former Director of the Yale Center for Genomics and Proteomics and the recipient of the 2007 Connecticut Medal of Science Award. Dr. Snyder should know, since he studies one of science’s greatest puzzles—the mystery of the human genome. Dr. Snyder’s research provides explanations for how and why we are each different from one another, as well as helps scientists to “understand the basis of mutations and genetic disease.”

Michael is the fifth child in a family of six children. He grew up in rural Pennsylvania, where his father worked as an accountant and his mother was a schoolteacher who instilled a “great curiosity about everything.” Michael spent much of his childhood playing outside, and helping care for the family’s pets and farm animals. It was in an advanced high school chemistry class that his formal interest in science was sparked by a teacher who gave Michael and his fellow students freedom to conduct their own experiments. Michael’s early achievements were recognized with the Bausch & Lomb Honorary Science Award, paving the way for his entrance to the University of Rochester, followed by his graduate studies at the California Institute of Technology. At Cal Tech, Michael trained with Dr. Norman Davidson, a pioneer in researching recombinant DNA, and one of the most influential people in Michael’s career. While working with Drosophila (fruit flies), Michael discovered that a particular gene was inactivated by a piece of DNA that jumped around in the genome. This early discovery and his subsequent postdoctoral work with Dr. Ronald Davis at Stanford University, who stressed the value of creating one’s own tools, led Michael “to research fundamental biological questions with novel technological approaches.” At Yale, he pioneered approaches for studying thousands of genes and proteins at the same time.

Dr. Snyder uses a car analogy to explain his work. If we want to understand how a car operates, it is not enough to observe only one component: we need to observe how many parts are integrated and work together. It is the same with genes and their system of operation. In the past, scientists were able to study only one gene at a time, but by working with yeast and then later with human cells, Dr. Snyder developed techniques for identifying and characterizing the functions of thousands of genes and the proteins they encode simultaneously. One method developed in Dr. Snyder’s lab was the ChIP chip procedure for studying the hundreds of gene targets controlled by protein regulators. Dr. Snyder’s laboratory found that a major difference between species derives from how genes are regulated; this work is valuable for understanding how humans and chimpanzees are different. His laboratory also developed protein microarrays which allow researchers to discover the functions of proteins, and how they are regulated; they are also valuable for drug discovery because they help determine which drugs bind to which proteins to exert their effects.

Among his many awards and honors, Dr. Snyder received the 1987 Pew Scholar Award and the 2000 Burroughs Wellcome Scholar Award. He has been elected to the board of directors of the Genetics Society of America and is president of the US Human Proteome Organization. He has published extensively and founded Protometrix, a company that manufactures protein chips that can be used by other labs for drug discovery. Dr. Snyder encourages young people to “be curious and do your own thing.” He thoroughly enjoys his work and believes that discovering what you really like to do, asking questions and solving puzzles goes a long way in science. Snyder moved to California in July 2009 after being named chair of the Department of Genetics at Stanford University School of Medicine.

William C. Stwalley   2005

Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor and Head, Physics Department
University of Connecticut

Imagine fluids flowing up the side of a container, rather than down. Now imagine levitated vehicles transporting us as if we were suspended in space. And finally, can you imagine super powerful computers that rely on qubits (quantum mechanical bits) to process information, enabling these computers to decode complex encryptions that otherwise are considered indecipherable? These are only a few of the many possibilities created by work being done in the field of quantum mechanical matter, a field of study that is of particular interest to Dr. William Stwalley, Chair of the Physics Department at the University of Connecticut and recipient of the 2005 Connecticut Medal of Science Award as well as the William F. Meggers Award of the Optical Society of America for outstanding work in spectroscopy, and the Chancellor’s Research Excellence Award at the University of Connecticut (UConn). He has been a member of the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering since 1994.

Dr. Stwalley was born in Glendale, California, but because of his father’s work as a quality control expert with Douglas Aircraft, his family moved many times in the southern California area. He fondly recalls those early years in Santa Monica, when he lived only eleven blocks from the beach and in the summertime, on his way home from the beach, he frequented a comic shop where he bought used comics for only a penny. He still has his comic book collection, including Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge, and at least one rare comic, valued today at somewhat more than a penny.

While a student at Fullerton High School, the young Bill Stwalley found encouragement for his interest in mathematics from an “outstanding teacher, Mr. Redfern.” Mr. Redfern took Bill and his fellow students to regional and statewide math competitions where Bill not only won a slide rule and a scientific encyclopedia that he still has today, but he “got to see lots of other students and see how well we performed relative to others in California.” Later, he completed his undergraduate education at Cal Tech, where he majored in physical chemistry and began the study of diatomic molecules that he believes are “simple to understand and understand well.” After receiving his PhD from Harvard University, Dr. Stwalley continued research on these molecules and studied the very unique ways in which atoms and molecules react under extremely cold conditions, below 1°K (Kelvin). Unlike ordinary molecules, ultracold diatomic molecules do not collide like “billiard balls” and in some cases “go through each other.” Although this area currently involves basic research, there exist many possible applications of quantum mechanical matter. Dr. Stwalley expects many significant examples to evolve in the next few decades.

Dr. Stwalley finds UConn to be a very exciting environment because of the work being done on ultracold science and the contribution he is able to make by educating graduate students and “teaching them how to think well and develop their own ideas.” He believes that “young people need to know how to ask questions and know what they don’t know.” Dr. Stwalley has enjoyed observing his three granddaughters and their love for science, although he is concerned with the challenge of “stimulating scientific interest in young children and then maintaining that interest as children mature, particularly in light of competition from many forms of entertainment.” Dr. Stwalley would most like to be remembered as a good person, a good scientist and a good teacher who has contributed many exciting ideas over the years.

Ronald R. Coifman   1996

Professor of Mathematics
Yale University

While a typical kindergartener struggles with adding together two apples and three apples, Ronald Coifman, a most precocious preschooler, was “interrogating his elders” in order to understand multiplication facts, assiduously paving the way for his ascent to Computational Harmonic Analysis, a process that makes it possible to “extract information from complex patterns.” Dr. Coifman, best known for his work on wavelet packets—a mathematical shorthand for compressing and restoring images and sound—is a professor at Yale University. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He received the DARPA Sustained Excellence Award in 1996, as well as the Connecticut Medal of Science. He received the 1999 Pioneer Award from the International Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, and the 1999 National Medal of Science.

Dr. Coifman grew up in Tel Aviv. His parents were multi-lingual: his father spoke ten languages, and his mother was fluent in six. Because of the diverse population of newly developing Israel, Ronald was exposed to several different languages being spoken among his parents and neighbors all in a day. Since Dr. Coifman perceives math as a linguistic entity, complete with patterns and structures, his early exposure and facility to think in many different languages became a fundamental building block for his work, helping him extract information and transcribe that information into a mathematical language that he would later use to represent digital files.

His father was a chemical engineer and a “prolific inventor” who served as his mentor, engaging young Ronald in “extensive discussions on science and technology.” His father however, was not the only one to inspire him. Dr. Coifman recalls that the best teacher he ever had was his high school math teacher, Dr. Marshak, whom he credits with teaching him how to read. How to read? Of course, Ronald knew how to read in high school, but according to Dr. Coifman, what is too often assumed to be reading is merely skimming pages for content. What Dr. Marshak taught him was not how to simply read the words printed on a page, but how to systematically analyze mathematical constructs and question his understanding before progressing to the next level of complexity.

Dr. Coifman continued his education in Switzerland at the University of Geneva, majoring in mathematics and physics. He earned his PhD from the University of Geneva in 1965. Dr. Coifman states, “My work enables efficient representations of digital files, such as images, music, or scientific data. Various compression algorithms now in use such as JPEG or MPEG for image and video files are based on these methods. In our age, the ability to make sense out of massive digital data sets, whether medical data for diagnostics, or economic data for planning, or web documents is essential. Computational Harmonic Analysis is a basic component to enable this progress.” Currently, Dr. Coifman is working on projects to understand the mechanisms of learning, both machine and biological. He notes that some rudimentary but powerful mathematical foundations for such processes exist and can be used to organize and extract knowledge from vast digital data from medical to musical.

Dr. Coifman would like to impress upon young people that “mathematics permeates every activity in the information age. Just as it is essential to understand basic aspects of the law to survive and navigate the shoals of commerce, it is just as important to be proficient in the basics of mathematical thinking and organization. It is not difficult, but like a sport activity, it requires serious effort and training.”

Frederic M. Richards   1995

Sterling Professor Emeritus of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry
Yale University

Frederic Richards remembers when chemistry sets “were allowed to actually do something.” Those were the good old’ days, when a chemistry set could cause explosions and kids had fun observing smoke rise from mixing and heating mysterious substances. Dr. Richards spent his childhood in the company of his older sister Marianna, who served as a “role model and made sure that I would be a good chemist.” Later, he attended Phillips Exeter Academy, where the science department permitted students access to the labs outside of class hours, cementing his “commitment to a scientific career.” Marianna was not to be disappointed. Dr. Frederic Richards became Sterling Professor Emeritus of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale University and has earned numerous awards, including the Pfizer-Paul Lewis Award in enzyme chemistry, the Kai Linderstrom-Lang Award of the Danish Academy of Science, the Merck Award from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the Protein Society’s Stern and Moore Award and the 1995 Connecticut Medal of Science Award. For more than half a century, his work has informed protein chemistry. Dr. Richards’ research enhanced the understanding of protein assembly, enabling researchers to manipulate the protein molecule and even change its biological function.

According to Dr. Richards, “for those with a scientific bent, MIT was the obvious choice for college in 1943.” While studying at MIT, he took a physics course in X-ray diffraction that “determined the direction of his future research.” After graduation from MIT, it was Marianna who once again helped set his direction by encouraging him to pursue a PhD program at Harvard University, where he studied proteins—their composition, cellular dimensions, density and structure. In 1955, Dr. Richards made his debut at Yale. Although he would eventually spend all of his scientific career at Yale, he admitted to never really feeling that he was a “Yale man,” since he had attended Harvard.

During his tenure at Yale, Dr. Richards primarily focused on the Ribonuclease-S project in which he and his colleagues studied the relationship between the structure of a protein in a crystal and its comparable form in a solution. According to Dr. Richards, his research has “profound implications for the biotechnology industry. In creating drugs, for example, people are applying this knowledge to develop inhibitors for enzymes, which would prevent the growth of deadly viruses.”

“Dr. Richards’ contributions to the field of biophysics have been substantial, not only in his approach to research and discovery, but also in regard to his uncompromising integrity and willingness to work with others," said Seamus Levine-Wilkinson, a graduate student in the Biology Department in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at John Hopkins University, where Dr. Richards was a guest lecturer in June 2006. In his paper entitled, “Whatever Happened to the Fun? An Autobiographical Investigation,” Dr. Richards says that he is concerned for the future of students and researchers because following a “brief apprenticeship phase” there is less time for the fun of research. He would like to see the “fun component reinstated.”

Connecticut Medal of Technology

Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company   2020

The Connecticut Medal of Technology, the state’s highest honor for technologic achievement, is awarded to individuals, teams, and companies/non-profits or divisions of companies/non-profits for their outstanding contributions to the economic, environmental, and social well-being of Connecticut and the nation through the promotion of technology, technological innovation, or the development of the technological workforce.

The Connecticut Medals of Science and Technology are awarded in alternate years by the state of Connecticut. The Connecticut Medals are modeled after the National Medal of Science and National Medal of Technology and Innovation awarded annually by the president of the United States.

This award is bestowed by the state of Connecticut, with the assistance of the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering.

Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company, has been selected as the 2020 recipient of the Connecticut Medal of Technology.

Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company, is the 2020 recipient of the Connecticut Medal of Technology in recognition of X2 Technology, a generational leap in rotary-wing innovation that enables helicopters to complete tasks traditional helicopters can’t today. X2 Technology consists of an integrated package of technologies that make X2 aircraft faster, more agile, and more maneuverable than other helicopters.

Sikorsky has been a leader in aviation and innovation ever since Igor Sikorsky founded Sikorsky Aero Engineering Corporation in 1923. Sikorsky helicopters have transported every U.S. president since 1957 and have also fulfilled aviation needs across all branches of the military. In 2004, engineers started work on X2 Technology to overcome the speed and stability limitations of prior helicopters. These limits drove Sikorsky engineers to completely rethink the typical design of a helicopter. X2 Technology consists of: counter-rotating rigid rotor blades, fly-by-wire flight controls, hub drag reduction, active vibration control, and an integrated auxiliary propulsion system.

In 2010, Sikorsky’s X2 Technology Demonstrator reached 250 knots, before its final flight the program was honored with a prestigious Collier Award, which recognizes the greatest achievements in aeronautics or astronautics in America. Sikorsky donated the aircraft to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. The Company’s work then shifted to address the U.S. Army’s future vertical lift needs. The S-97 RAIDER is the second X2-based helicopter. Sikorsky’s newest design, RAIDER X is based on this design and will contend for the Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program. Sikorsky, in partnership with Boeing, developed the SB>1 DEFIANT, a larger design that is now in flight test and informing the Army’s Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program. The evolution of X2 Technology through each phase of design and flight test have proven the scalability of this game-changing technology.
“Sikorsky engineers represent the most innovative minds in our industry,” said Dan Schultz, Sikorsky President. “Their passion for excellence continues to expand the boundaries of helicopter speed and maneuverability. I am extremely proud that our team’s work has paved the way to meet the needs of the Army’s Future Vertical Lift program.”

Sikorsky’s engineering and manufacturing expertise is a significant economic force in the state, with currently 7,900 CT-based employees. X2 Technology will directly benefit the state’s economy.

“Connecticut is proud to award the 2020 Connecticut Medal of Technology to Sikorsky,” said Governor Ned Lamont. “Connecticut is home to the nation’s most innovative and talented aerospace and defense manufacturers and suppliers— and companies like Sikorsky keep us competitive by continuously providing exciting new opportunities for top engineering and science graduates from our state’s colleges and universities. Sikorsky is to be congratulated for their ongoing innovations and commitment to the state of Connecticut and our workforce.”

Pratt & Whitney   2018

Pratt & Whitney 2018 CT Medal of Technology
2018 Recipient of the Connecticut Medal of Technology, Pratt & Whitney. Above, from left to right, CASE Member Cato Laurencin, Governor Dannel P. Malloy, Chris Pratt accepting award on behalf service,” said David B. Carter, Senior Vice President of of Pratt & Whitney, and CASE President Laura Grabel. [Photo: Frank LaBance]
Pratt & Whitney has been selected as the 2018 recipient of the Connecticut Medal of Technology in recognition of its accomplishments in creating the groundbreaking geared turbofan (GTF) technology with unprecedented reductions in fuel consumption and noise, representing an incredible technological achievement in mechanical engineering and aircraft propulsion. Numerous airline customers have chosen Pratt & Whitney’s PurePower® turbofan engines because of the superior architecture and performance, as well as economic and environmental benefits.

“At Pratt & Whitney, we are in a very competitive industry and our continued success depends on our people driving innovation into every part, process and service,” said David B. Carter, Senior Vice President of Engineering. “From the smallest detail of our engine design to the last stage of our manufacturing line, they are continuously improving how our engines are designed, manufactured and serviced. In the GTF alone, we matured or invented at least 48 technologies to drive performance benefits and we have over 3600 patents and patent applications filed globally to protect our investment in innovative GTF architecture. These technologies go beyond the gear and include advancements to the fan blade, engine core, materials, monitoring systems and a host of others. Our customers have depended on Pratt & Whitney innovators literally for generations, and with the GTF, they can continue to count on us for the next generation.”

Pratt & Whitney's groundbreaking geared turbofan
Above, Pratt & Whitney’s groundbreaking geared turbofan (GTF) engine. [Graphic: Pratt & Whitney]
Pratt & Whitney has had a long-term commitment to and association with the State of Connecticut. “The State of Connecticut is proud to award the Connecticut Medal of Technology to Pratt & Whitney,” said Governor Dannel P. Malloy. “Connecticut is the proud home of some of the nation’s most talented aerospace and defense manufacturers and suppliers, and Pratt & Whitney is certainly among them. This company continues to conduct cutting-edge aerospace research, providing exciting new opportunities for top engineering and science graduates from our state’s colleges and universities. We applaud Pratt & Whitney for their ongoing innovations and continued commitment to the State of Connecticut.”

Pratt employs thousands of engineers and workers with headquarters, research and development organizations and production facilities in Connecticut. United Technologies Corporation, parent company of Pratt & Whitney, spent more than $10 billion on research before launching the GTF engine. With more than 8,000 engines sold to date, the GTF represents several hundred billion dollars of economic activity in Connecticut over the next few years.

Cato T. Laurencin   2016

University Professor, University of Connecticut
CEO, Connecticut Institute for Clinical and Translational Science
Director, Institute for Regenerative Engineering
Endowed Chair Professor, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, UConn Health

Cato T. Laurencin, MD, PhD
Dr. Cato T. Laurencin is a University Professor at the University of Connecticut, CEO of the Connecticut Institute for Clinical and Translational Science, Director of the Institute for Regenerative Engineering, and Endowed Chair Professor, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, UConn Health [Photo: Andrew Bramante, CASE Photographer]
Dr. Laurencin is a University Professor at UConn—only the eighth person in the school’s history—which recognizes extraordinary academic excellence, and sustained, high-level achievements in administration at the school and is UConn’s highest faculty achievement. He is Chief Executive Officer of the Connecticut Institute for Clinical and Translational Science and is the Founding Director of the Institute for Regenerative Engineering and the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Center for Biomedical, Biological, Physical, and Engineering Sciences at UConn Health. Additionally, he is a professor across the university, a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon, endowed Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, and was the faculty leader in the development of the Bioscience Connecticut Initiative.

Dr. Laurencin is the scientific founder of Soft Tissue Regeneration, a Connecticut company that is commercializing breakthrough technologies for anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) regeneration and rotator cuff regeneration. The rotator cuff device has been cleared for use by the FDA, and the ACL device is in clinical trials in Europe. Dr. Laurencin also is the Scientific Co-founder of Natural Polymer Devices, a Connecticut company focused on developing polysaccharide polymer technologies for bone regeneration, which is in the process of seeking FDA clearance of a novel fracture repair device for the treatment of cervical spine fractures.

Dr. Laurencin has served as a permanent member of the orthopaedic device panel for the US Food and Drug Administration and was appointed to the National Science Advisory Board of the FDA, the overseeing body of that agency.

Dr. Laurencin is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Engineering, the first orthopaedic surgeon in history to achieve dual election. In Connecticut, he was named the 2014 CURE Connecticut Academic Entrepreneur of the Year. He is a recipient of the National Medal of Technology & Innovation (2015) and the Technology Innovation and Development Award from the Society for Biomaterials, was named one of the 100 Engineers of the Modern Era by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (2009), and was inducted into the National Academy of Inventors (2013). He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the Biomedical Engineering Society, the Materials Research Society, and the American Chemical Society. Internationally, he is a Fellow of the Indian National Academy of Sciences, a Foreign Fellow of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, an Associate Fellow of the African Academy of Sciences, and a Fellow of The World Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Laurencin is a member of the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering.

Frederick J. Leonberger   2014

Principal of EOvation Advisors, LLC
Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer (ret.)
JDS Uniphase Corporation
Frederick J. Leonberger 2014 CT Medal of Science
Dianna Roberge-Wentzell, left, Chief Academic Officer at the Connecticut State Department of Education, with Frederick Leonberger, center, and CASE President Louis Manzione. (Photo: Frank Labanca)

Frederick J. Leonberger was honored with the 2014 Connecticut Medal of Technology for his outstanding accomplishments in the field of photonics and fiber-­optics, primarily in the area of electro-­optic devices. Dr. Leonberger is Principal of EOvation Advisors, LLC, and retired Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of JDS Uniphase Corporation.

For almost 40 years, Leonberger has been a leading contributor to his field not only in the development of a variety of important optical devices, but in product and business strategy, commercialization and overall company leadership. The integrated optical modulators he pioneered have been used pervasively for over 15 years to encode data at billions of bits per second in long-­haul fiber optic networks. Similar modulator devices are widely used to transmit CATV signals. These devices are manufactured in Bloomfield and that business has had a substantial economic impact on Connecticut (valued at more than $500 million).

In his early career with the MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Leonberger developed a breakthrough analog-­to-­digital converter device, which incorporated micron-­scale guided-­wave modulator integration on a single chip. He joined United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) in 1984 as manager of Photonics and Applied Physics. The major technologies developed in UTRC groups Leonberger led have all spawned commercial Connecticut businesses: United Technologies Photonics (UTP) in Bloomfield; CiDRA, in Wallingford; and DEOS, now part of Coherent, in Bloomfield. Aggregate revenue of these businesses over the past 15 years is estimated to exceed $1 billion.

In 1992, Leonberger co-­founded and became General Manager of UTP. In  1995, UTP was acquired by Uniphase Corporation and Leonberger went on to become Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President of that company and continued in that role after the Uniphase/JDS Fitel merger. He retired in 2003 and founded EOvation Technologies (now EOvation Advisors), a technology and business advisory firm serving photonics and laser companies. In addition to advising senior management teams, he presently serves on the Board of Directors of four private venture-­funded photonics companies.

A graduate of the University of Michigan, Leonberger holds a PhD in electrical engineering from MIT. He was elected to CASE in 1985 and to the National Academy of Engineering in 2000.

Yaakov Bar-Shalom   2012

Marianne E. Klewin Professor in Engineering
Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor
University of Connecticut
Yaakov Bar-Shalom CT Medal of Technology
Yaakov Bar-shalom, PROFESSOR,ELECTRICAL & CPTR ENGR.

When Yaakov Bar-Shalom was a teenager in Romania, he enjoyed listening to the BBC or Voice of America, something which was considered “pretty dangerous under the Communist regime.” However, by the time he was nineteen, he and his family had emigrated to Israel, where after only four months, Yaakov had learned enough Hebrew to continue his studies and graduate Cum Laude from Technion in Haifa, Israel, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree and later a Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering. Following this, he earned his PhD from Princeton University.

Today, Yaakov Bar-Shalom is a University of Connecticut Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering and the Marianne E. Klewin Endowed Professor in Engineering, and is the recipient of the 2012 Connecticut Medal of Technology for his work in improving the sensitivity of remote sensors used for surveillance in the presence of background noise or clutter. According to Anthony DeMaria, 2004 recipient of the Connecticut Medal of Technology and Chief Scientist at Coherent-DEOS, LLC, Professor Bar-Shalom is regarded as the “chief architect of probability-based methods for estimating the paths of moving objects.”

Professor Bar-Shalom notes that a turning point in his career came two years after he received his PhD and was working for a company on developing a tracking algorithm that could work in presence of “clutter.” At the time, his direct manager believed he was “wasting company time” and recommended that he be fired. Fortunately, the company vice president stepped in and asked a professor from a well known university to evaluate the work. The professor declared that Bar-Shalom’s algorithm “made sense,” thus saving his job! Professor Bar Shalom states that “the ultimate compliment I received from this professor was that he later used my results in another consulting job, with the appropriate credit given to me.” Before Professor Bar Shalom’s work in the early 1970s, the field of multiple target tracking was largely dependent upon ad-hoc algorithms with little theoretical foundation. In the mid-1970s, he introduced the Probabilistic Data Association and Joint Probabilistic Data Association, both of which were theoretically sound and practical for application.

Professor Bar-Shalom’s research has improved the sensitivity of remote sensors used for either radar or sonar surveillance. This is particularly significant for national defense because it permits early detection of approaching hostile targets, making a timely counterattack possible. Professor Bar-Shalom’s work also solved a very challenging problem for airports, which have numerous objects that can confuse a conventional tracking algorithm. The sensors based on his algorithms enhance air transport safety and are used by Raytheon in their airport surface detection radar systems operating at numerous airports from Boston to New Delhi.

Professor Bar-Shalom credits his high school math teacher, affectionately referred to as “M-squared” with first inspiring his interest in pursuing a mathematical career. “Fortunately, I managed to retain everything this math teacher taught.” After completing high school at age 16, Professor Bar-Shalom studied at the Polytechnic Institute in Bucharest, Romania, for his first three college years. There, his professor, who taught Electromagnetics, showed him “the elegance of mathematical modeling and instilled in me the desire to pursue new ideas.”

Professor Bar-Shalom believes that “young people should develop the stamina to pursue the study of mathematics, science, and engineering because it is rewarding and is the key to society enjoying the benefits of modern technology.” He cites Theodore von Karman, an aerospace engineer awarded the first National Medal of Science, who said “Scientists discover the world that exists; Engineers create the world that never was.”’

Jonathan M. Rothberg   2010

Chairman, CEO, and Founder
Ion Torrent™

As a second grader, Jonathan Rothberg spent a lot of time in the principal’s office. He struggled with reading and, too often, found himself in trouble with his music teacher. However, his mother’s belief that he would one day “do good science,” coupled with his father’s engineer’s emphasis on solving problems, formed the foundation for his later accomplishments. Of course, it didn’t hurt that that there was a chemistry laboratory in his basement where he spent hours experimenting, or that at thirteen, he was given one of the first “hobby” computers by his older brother Henry, and taught to program by his other older brother David. These childhood experiences cultivated his problem solving abilities. When he arrived at Carnegie Mellon University to begin his training as a chemical engineer, he discovered that he was “best at solving problems that no one had solved before.” Jonathan, whose early school life was marked by difficulty, was, by his junior year of college, sequencing DNA, and envisioning ways to do it better – much better. Today, Jonathan Rothberg, PhD, is best known for inventing a way to decode your genome — the biological “program” (the “book of life”) stored on the 23 pairs of chromosomes in each of your cells that makes you unique — and is the recipient of the 2010 Connecticut Medal of Technology.

After completing college, Dr. Rothberg attended Yale University, earning a PhD in biology. His thesis work — decoding a gene responsible for wiring the nervous system — appeared on the cover of the prestigious journal Cell. He realized that he “wanted to do this work on a big scale” and to develop medicines. To accomplish this, he started CuraGen. At CuraGen he was the first to completely map out how the proteins encoded in a genome functioned together (featured on the covers of Nature and Science) and develop drugs for the treatment of metastatic skin and breast cancer.

When his son Noah was born in 1999 and rushed, not breathing, to newborn intensive care, Jonathan realized he wanted to develop drugs based on personal genomes. While his son was in the intensive care unit, Dr. Rothberg invented the first fast way to sequence DNA and founded 454 Life Sciences. This technology allowed for decoding genomes at a rate never before possible, enabling the first sequencing of an individual human genome — that of James D. Watson, who co-discovered the structure of DNA.

Dr. Rothberg also initiated the Neanderthal Genome Project, cracked the mystery behind the disappearance of the honey bee, uncovered a mysterious virus killing transplant patients, and elucidated the extent of individual human variation — work recognized by Science magazine as the breakthrough of the year for 2007. The New England Journal described Dr. Rothberg’s sequencing innovation as enabling “The New Age of Molecular Diagnostic…” Science magazine called it one of the top 10 breakthroughs for 2008.

Recently, Dr. Rothberg has taken his research further with the creation of Ion Torrent. Ion Torrent is leveraging semiconductor technology to create the first “personal genome machine.” This invention of Dr. Rothberg’s, a sequencing machine on a chip, translates the chemical information in your genome directly to digital information, making genome sequencing an inexpensive and powerful part of medicine, much like the invention of the computer chip did for computing.

Dr. Rothberg is widely published, was twice named as The World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneer, is an Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year and received The Wall Street Journal’s First Gold Medal for Innovation. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering, and serves on the board of trustees of Carnegie Mellon University. He is indeed doing “good science.”

Tso-Ping Ma   2008

Raymond John Wean Professor of Electrical Engineering
Yale University

Before Professor T.P. Ma began graduate work at Yale, he considered himself fluent in English. After all, he had excelled in English studies since eighth grade, and listened to American radio broadcasts of music and news. However, one day during a first-term math course taught by a British professor, T.P. arrived to class to find the room empty. He was confused. Where was everyone? Fortunately, he saw a classmate who explained that class was cancelled to provide study time for the next day’s major exam. T.P. was astounded, and spent that day and night preparing for the exam. Afterwards, he kept a radio by his bedside, falling asleep to late night talk shows to improve his listening skills. Now, almost forty years later, Professor Ma is not only fluent in English, but his outstanding contributions in the field of engineering render him one of the greatest scientists of our time and the 2008 recipient of the Connecticut Medal of Technology.

Tso-Ping Ma was born in the northwestern corner of China. Four years later, his parents fled Communism to settle in Taiwan, where he completed his education through college. After a year of military service, T.P. applied to Yale University, where he was accepted in 1969 and began work in semiconductor research. Professor Ma considers a serendipitous introduction to the “visionary” Richard Barker, his future mentor and advisor, to be a critical turning point in his career. Professor Barker enthusiastically embraced Ma’s interest in semiconductor research, arranging for grants from Bell Labs. At that time, the industry standard for gate dielectrics on semiconductors was 1,000 angstroms and “no one believed that they could be condensed to anything less than 100 angstroms.” T.P.’s thesis research on electron tunneling through ultra-thin gate dielectrics proved that it was indeed feasible to create a gate dielectric on semiconductors that functioned at 20 angstroms.

Semiconductors transmit electronic information. Gate dielectrics are insulators for this electron transmission, and as Professor Ma explains, “the insulator is like a wall upon which electrons are thrown, some electrons will seep through if the wall is too thin.” The task for Professor Ma was to strengthen the silicon dioxide gate dielectric with minimum quantities of nitrogen, allowing information to be most efficiently transmitted, without electrons leaking in the process. His work paved the way for high-k dielectrics, further extending the scaling limit. Ma is now researching a new type of dynamic random access memory (DRAM), to save energy, increase memory and provide far faster methods of communication for personal and industry use in everything from cell phones to medical and defense technology.

Professor Ma believes many young people do not realize their potential for making a difference. His mother encouraged him to pursue engineering to make significant contributions to society. Beyond his work on gate dielectrics, some of his many contributions include: chairman of the Department of Electrical Engineering at Yale, co-director of the Center for Microelectronic Materials and Structures at Yale, election to the National Academy of Engineering and the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering, and recipient of the 2006 Semiconductor Industry Association Award and the IEEE Andrew S. Grove Award. He advises youngsters to develop a strong foundation in math and science to have the needed tools. Tso Ping Ma would like to be remembered as an innovator who “believes in the use of technology to improve society, and an educator who brings up the next generation of innovators.”

Gene Banucci   2006

Founder and Chairman
ATMI, Inc.

When Gene Banucci was in seventh grade, he wrote an essay about what he wanted to be when he grew up: a chemist and an investment banker — unusual interests for a thirteen-year old! But that’s just what he became: a chemist and CEO of his own company, ATMI, that employs over 750 people worldwide with a market capitalization exceeding one billion dollars. Despite these accomplishments, he wants to be known best for his contributions to the progress of mankind.

Dr. Banucci came from humble beginnings, growing up in Racine, Wisconsin. His father worked for the railroad, his mother in a retail shop. Dr. Banucci recalls that he was thirteen when Sputnik went into orbit. This event “catalyzed an interest in all things scientific;” later, in high school, his chemistry teacher made chemistry “a lot more fun.” An avid reader, Dr. Banucci was the first in his family to go to college. He earned a scholarship to Beloit College, where he majored in chemistry. He credits his professors with developing his speaking, writing and leadership skills — skills he believes are critical to being a good scientist. After completing his PhD in organic chemistry at Wayne State University, he was hired by General Electric Company where he developed his first patent at the age of 29.

“Creativity without the opportunity to create doesn’t do much,” he says, and he feels lucky to have both. He believes he inherited his creativity from his father, whose family was very creative. Dr. Banucci’s inventions are his creative and scientific response to needs that require attention. He explains that his company’s greatest invention and the one of which he is proudest, derived from meeting a fire chief.

The story begins in Silicon Valley, where microchips that power computers, cell phones, and Game Boys are manufactured. In emergencies, firefighters were reluctant to enter chip manufacturing plants because of toxic gases used in the manufacturing process. The fire chief asked if the storage and use of these gases could be made safer.

Dr. Banucci and his team learned of work being done on trapping these dangerous gases in absorbent materials containing millions of tiny holes. These new materials acted like sponges, except the gases completely adhered to the material and could not be released simply by opening a canister. Dr. Banucci and his team redesigned the material by changing the size of the holes, thus allowing workers to safely extract the gases. The end result, the SDS (Safe Delivery System), is now employed in every chip manufacturing plant in the world, making both the workplace and environment safer.

Dr. Banucci has this advice for young people, “Our world is changing at an increasingly faster and faster pace. Science and technology are driving those changes. If young people today do not understand the scientific reasons that explain the changes, they will have little chance to adapt. It’s not the strongest of the species that survive but the most adaptable.” Dr. Banucci has been a member of the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering since 2007.

Anthony J. DeMaria   2004

Founder and Chief Scientist
Coherent*DEOS, LLC

What do the James Bond movie Goldfinger, Tom Clancy’s novel, The Cardinal of the Kremlin and the United Technologies Research Center have in common? They are all loves of Tony DeMaria’s, because they encourage the exploration of science and laser technology. Dr. DeMaria came to America from Italy when he was five years old, grew up in a tough Waterbury neighborhood, and worked construction jobs to help his family and support his education. His father was a janitor with limited education and his mother was a garment worker with no education. He struggled to learn English, had a stutter, and didn’t fit in well until 8th grade. In spite of these challenges, he went on to become one of Connecticut’s greatest contributors to scientific advancement and technology. To what does he owe his success? To a fascination with science that as a youngster included geology and astronomy, and to his family physician, who in 1950 advised him to study electronics, “an exploding field” after World War II. This advice led Dr. DeMaria to his favorite hobby and lifelong career: laser research.

Dr. DeMaria graduated from the University of Connecticut in 1956 with a degree in electrical engineering. He began his first job, working on radar applications for Anderson Laboratories. It wasn’t long before he realized that applied physics was his true passion; he began attending night classes at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Hartford, earning a Masters Degree in Science. A turning point in his life occurred in 1959, when he read Nobel laureate Charles Townes’s theoretical paper on lasers; this encouraged him to enroll in a PhD program in both electronics and physics at UConn. His 1965 thesis led to his greatest breakthrough — generating picosecond laser pulses, whose time durations lasted the time it takes light to travel the thickness of a sheet of paper. These ultra-fast laser pulses made it possible to probe atoms and molecules and measure their relaxation rates, a discovery that led to overnight fame and his election to the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences, and as president of the Optical Society of America. He is a founding member of the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering and a member of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In 1994, Dr. DeMaria retired from United Technologies to start DeMaria ElectroOptics Systems, LLC (DEOS) with the purpose of transferring laser radar technology to commercial use. In 2001, DEOS was acquired by Coherent, Inc, becoming Coherent-DEOS, LLC located in Bloomfield, where he serves as chief scientist. He is very proud of his company, which has created over 200 new jobs in Connecticut and exports over 75% of its laser products worldwide. He continues to make valuable contributions to the scientific community as he sees his role “progressing from scientist to manager to entrepreneur.” Dr. DeMaria has been awarded 55 patents and continues to develop new ideas.

“Technology is what makes the world go around,” says Dr. DeMaria. “Countries with good technology are the global economic leaders.” He believes that unfortunately “many Americans are intimidated by science and technology, which are not only very important fields for keeping us competitive in a world market, but are also fields of great interest, reward and excitement.” Dr. DeMaria tells young people not to “believe that people in technology are the nerds portrayed on television and in movies. Scientists and engineers contribute greatly to the economic health and well-being of the world, while enjoying life and having fun too!”

Charles H. Kaman   1996

Founder and Chief Executive Officer
Kaman Corporation

Charlie Kaman was not easily discouraged. In the 1940s, when others thought helicopters were frivolous designs with little potential for the aerospace industry, Charlie was hard at work in his mother’s garage, developing an improved model with a 1933 Pontiac engine. The work he did that day and the years to follow changed his life and the lives of thousands who have been airlifted and rescued from the jungles of Vietnam and the waters off Iran in helicopters manufactured by the Kaman Aircraft Corporation — the company that Charlie Kaman started in 1945 by selling $1,000 in stock to each of two close friends. Kaman developed the first gas turbine-powered helicopter, now in the Smithsonian Museum collection.

Charles Kaman grew up in Washington, D.C. His father was a German immigrant who supervised construction on the Supreme Court. As a youngster, Charles set records for hand-launched model gliders, dreaming of becoming a professional pilot. When a tonsillectomy left him deaf in one ear, he had to change plans. In 1940 he earned a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering from Catholic University. He turned down a job with the Tommy Dorsey Band to take a position in the propeller performance unit at Hamilton Standard, a division of United Aircraft, where he met his mentor, Igor Sikorsky. In a speech to the Wings Club in 1996, he said “At that moment, something clicked. I knew Igor was onto something big. I revered Igor Sikorsky, and I always retained a tremendous amount of respect for what he accomplished.”

After becoming head of the aerodynamics department, he partnered with Sikorsky to design rotors for helicopters needed during WW II. This work required application of the Goldstein Vortex Theory to analyze performance of airplane propellers in hovering and vertical flight — a tedious, time-consuming endeavor that frustrated his efforts to efficiently complete the necessary calculations. Since PCs had not yet been invented, Mr. Kaman essentially invented his own: “At home on my own time, I began designing a special computer with the hope of reducing dramatically the time required for individual point calculations. I created a new calculating machine, which I called the Aerodynamic Calculator. The device, which used relays, switches, condensers and electronic tube circuits working on logarithmic scales, reduced the calculation time to five minutes.”

Charles Kaman’s interests extend beyond helicopters and aerodynamics. He is an avid music and animal lover, a guitarist who used his knowledge of helicopter design to build guitars with a natural sound from aerospace composites. The round-backed Ovation guitar laid the foundation for his music company. Today, Kaman Music is a global manufacturer and distributor of instruments for professional and amateur musicians. Mr. Kaman and his wife, Roberta, also founded the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation, dedicated to training guide dogs for work with the blind. This organization is unique because it not only breeds suitable dogs, but provides an “in-community”training program whereby instructors bring dogs into the home to train both pet and owner. The Kamans were named Melvin Jones Fellows by Lions Club International for their years of service to the blind.

Charles Kaman lived his personal credo – success hinges on one’s determination to work hard despite obstacles which ultimately serve to “sweeten the fruit of success.” His life’s work has yielded many honors, including the 1997 National Aeronautic Association’s Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy, the 1996 National Medal of Technology, the 1996 Connecticut Medal of Technology, and the US Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Medal. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering.

H. Joseph Gerber   1995

Founder, Chairman, and President
Gerber Scientific, Inc.

The boy was only fifteen when he was arrested and sent to Mauer bei Wien, a Nazi labor camp. A few weeks later he was released, only to be rearrested and with his father, packed on a train headed toward Dachau, one of Hitler’s infamous concentration camps. The boy convinced his father to jump with him from the train. Hiking through the dangerous countryside, they managed to find their way back to Vienna. Sadly, the Nazis found his father and sent him to an internment camp in Poland and that was the last time the boy saw his father. Through a tireless effort, his mother secured them passage on a ship bound for America and a new life. The year was 1940 and the boy was Heinz Joseph Gerber, who grew up to become one of the most eminent inventors of the 20th century and the recipient of numerous awards including the 1994 National Medal of Technology Award and the 1995 Connecticut Medal of Technology. He was granted several honorary doctorates and more than 670 US and foreign patents. Joseph Gerber was a man who will be remembered for his brilliance, creativity, energy and generous spirit.

Joe Gerber arrived in Hartford and in two years, completed Weaver High School while working jobs in hotels, tobacco fields, and a bakery, all the while learning English. He earned a scholarship to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, graduating with a B.S. in aeronautical engineering. One night, during his junior year at Rensselaer, he fell behind in his engineering homework. An ingenious young man with a knack for spontaneously inventing ways to solve problems, he used the waistband from his pajamas to fashion a calibrated computing device that helped him solve his math problems and would later launch his career. This device is now known as The Gerber Variable Scale, hailed as the most revolutionary tool since the slide rule, and the company he started in 1945 became Gerber Scientific, Inc. Today, Gerber Scientific is a company worth half a billion dollars and employing two thousand people, with worldwide sales.

Joe was always looking for problems to solve. Before the advent of computers in the 1950s, he designed data reduction equipment, including the Derivimeter and the Equameter which give the derivative and the equation of a curve respectively, and the GraphAnalogue, an improved version of the Variable Scale. These instruments are now part of a permanent collection at the Smithsonian Museum.

Later in his career he designed a tool that transformed the US apparel industry struggling to compete with overseas markets. His innovation is the GERBERcutter®, which cuts large quantities of material with a computer-controlled knife. It provided jobs to thousands of Americans. Joseph Gerber, together with the people he mentored, changed the way manufacturing is done in this country. Gerber Scientific is responsible for the development of cost-cutting and time-saving design and manufacturing methods that transformed drafting, cartography, circuit boards, automotive, aerospace, apparel and other flexible materials, signs, billboards, printing prepress and lenses for eyeglasses.

Joseph Gerber believed that young people should find their passion and work to cultivate their interests. He was a natural teacher who valued learning for learning’s sake. His children remember him saying, “Education is the wings on creativity”. He loved science, as he believed it to be an essential part of life, something which provides both truth and beauty, enables human creativity, and improves our standard of living. Although he was a disciplined man who vastly contributed to the world of engineering and business, “he never lost his childhood curiosity” or his “love for America.”