Joseph DeSimone, whose scientific career has revolved around creating technology with real-world applications, has been named the recipient of the 22nd Heinz Award in the category of Technology, the Economy and Employment.
The award comes with an unrestricted prize of $250,000.
DeSimone, the Chancellor’s Eminent Professor of chemistry at Carolina, was selected for his achievements in developing and commercializing advanced technologies in green chemistry, nanoparticle fabrication, precision medicine and 3-D printing.
The award also recognizes DeSimone’s leadership in convergence research — a new area that aims to integrate life, physical and engineering sciences to create innovations that can improve people’s lives in the areas of health, environment, energy and the economy.
DeSimone has a nearly three-decade career at UNC and N.C. State, where he is the William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of chemical engineering. At UNC, he also is a member of UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.
DeSimone’s innovations have ranged from creating environmentally safe processes to make everyday materials, such as detergents, to engineering medical cures on the nano-level.
He has more than 350 publications and holds nearly 200 patents. He has started multiple companies based on his work.
DeSimone’s most recent work has been in the area of advanced manufacturing, where his technology — known as continuous liquid interface production — is used to reimagine 3-D printing with his company Carbon. He is currently on sabbatical to lead that company, which is using CLIP technology to fabricate objects significantly faster than current state-of-the-art 3-D printers.
“With CLIP and the parallel breakthrough we’ve made in the development of programmable liquid resins, we are changing the whole trajectory of how polymeric products are designed, engineered, made and delivered, from computer components and medical devices to running shoes and cars,” he said. “3-D printing has had everyone’s attention and inspired a lot of people to innovate, but until now it has been a frustratingly slow technology, without the quality or the materials to scale production. With our technology, the entire dynamic of traditional manufacturing is changing. Instead of making many parts that then need to be assembled in order to create a final object, we are able to directly make the final product.”
A member of all three branches of the National Academies, DeSimone has been the recipient of the U.S. National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the Kabiller Prize in Nanoscience and Nanomedicine from Northwestern University’s International Institute for Nanotechnology and the Lemelson-MIT Prize. He was a 2017 recipient of the GAA’s Faculty Service Award.
DeSimone’s “achievements as a polymer scientist and entrepreneur leading to singular breakthroughs in areas such as 3-D 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,” said Teresa Heinz, chair of the Heinz Family Foundation. “We honor him … 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.”
“It is truly humbling to be recognized with a Heinz Award,” DeSimone said. “By pursuing research paths at the interface of diverse disciplines, my students, co-workers and I have developed new technologies that, over time, have influenced areas including manufacturing and medicine. This award is a testament not just to our discoveries but to our approach to research — bringing together people with diverse backgrounds and expertise to solve difficult scientific challenges, ultimately to create a positive impact in the world.”
Awarded by the Heinz Family Foundation, the honor also annually recognizes the extraordinary achievements of individuals in the arts and humanities, environment, human condition and public policy.