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 www.nsf.gov/nsb/awards/nms/medal.htm. 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.