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Joseph DeSimone

Hokie alumnus wins White House honor for leading innovation

Joseph M. DeSimone earned two honors in 2016: a National Medal of Science and National Medal of Technology and Innovation Award from the White House and the University Distinguished Achievement Award from Virginia Tech. 

CEO and co-founder of Carbon, DeSimone earned his Ph.D. in chemistry from Virginia Tech in 1990. Given by former President Barack Obama, the White House award honors those who have made lasting contributions to America's competitiveness and quality of life and helped strengthen the nation's technological workforce. DeSimone was recognized for developing an environmentally-friendly manufacturing process for high-performance plastics and a novel drug delivery system for cancer treatment. 

DeSimone said the awards ceremony was surreal. "[President Obama] was so down to earth and so gracious. He said, 'Dr. DeSimone, thank you for your service to the nation!' ... I said, 'Are you kidding me? Thank you!'"

DeSimone said the spirit of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) has stayed with him during his stellar career in industry. "Entrepreneurship is the expression of progress to enhance the health and well-being of society—activity consistent with being a proud Virginia Tech alum," he said. 

Bestowed on DeSimone at the May 2016 university commencement ceremony, the University Distinguished Achievement Award recognizes achievements of national distinction in any field of enduring significance to society. 

DeSimone is one of fewer than 20 individuals elected to all three branches of the National Academies—medicine, sciences, and engineering. He also is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Among his other awards is the 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science Mentor Award, given for his efforts to advance diversity in the chemistry workforce.