Tobin Marks Awarded 2005 National Medal of Science by President Bush

Con­grat­u­la­tions to Pro­fes­sor Tobin J. Marks, who on May 29, 2007 was one of only eight sci­en­tists award­ed the 2005 Nation­al Medal of Sci­ence by Pres­i­dent George W. Bush. The Nation­al Medal of Sci­ence was estab­lished by the 86th Con­gress in 1959 as a Pres­i­den­tial Award to be giv­en to indi­vid­u­als “deserv­ing of spe­cial recog­ni­tion by rea­son of their out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tions to knowl­edge in the phys­i­cal, bio­log­i­cal, math­e­mat­i­cal, or engi­neer­ing sci­ences.” In 1980 Con­gress expand­ed this recog­ni­tion to include the social and behav­ioral sci­ences. The Nation­al Sci­ence Foun­da­tion admin­is­ters the award; for more infor­ma­tion about the Nation­al Medal of Sci­ence please vis­it A Com­mit­tee of 12 sci­en­tists and engi­neers is appoint­ed by the Pres­i­dent to eval­u­ate the nom­i­nees for the award. Since its estab­lish­ment, the Nation­al Medal of Sci­ence has been award­ed to 425 dis­tin­guished sci­en­tists and engi­neers whose careers spanned decades of research and devel­op­ment.

Marks’ research focus­es on the design, syn­the­sis and in-depth char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of new sub­stances hav­ing impor­tant chem­i­cal, phys­i­cal and/or bio­log­i­cal prop­er­ties. His work is cred­it­ed with hav­ing major impact on con­tem­po­rary catal­y­sis with sem­i­nal research in the areas of organo-f-ele­ment homo­ge­neous catal­y­sis, met­al-lig­and bond­ing ener­get­ics, sup­port­ed organometal­lic catal­y­sis and met­al­locene poly­mer­iza­tion catal­y­sis. Tobin joined North­west­ern in 1970, and is a leader in the devel­op­ment and under­stand­ing of sin­gle-site olefin poly­mer­iza­tion catal­y­sis (now a multi­bil­lion dol­lar indus­try) as well as in the study of new mate­ri­als hav­ing remark­able elec­tri­cal, mechan­i­cal, inter­fa­cial and pho­ton­ic prop­er­ties. He designed a co-cat­a­lyst that led to what is now a stan­dard process for pro­duc­ing bet­ter poly­olefins, includ­ing poly­eth­yl­ene and polypropy­lene. Found in every­thing from sand­wich wrap to long under­wear, these ver­sa­tile and inex­pen­sive plas­tics are lighter in weight and more recy­clable than pre­vi­ous plas­tics. In his mol­e­c­u­lar opto­elec­tron­ics work, Marks designs arrays of “smart” mol­e­cules that will self-assem­ble into, or spon­ta­neous­ly form, struc­tures that can con­duct elec­tric­i­ty, switch light on and off, detect light and turn sun­light into elec­tric­i­ty. These struc­tures could lead to the world’s most ver­sa­tile and sta­ble light-emit­ting diodes (LEDs) and to flex­i­ble “plas­tic” tran­sis­tors.