Technology medal going to UI prof

Technology medal going to UI prof

A University of Illinois professor and two of his former students will be among 16 researchers presented National Medals of Science and National Medals of Technology next month.

President Bush on Wednesday announced the winners of the nation's highest honors in science and technology, including UI Professor Nick Holonyak. The medals are to be awarded on Nov. 6 at a White House ceremony.

In addition to Holonyak, the technology medal winn-ers include George Craford of LumiLeds Lighting, San Jose, Calif., and Russell Dupuis, Georgia Institute of Technology, both former graduate students of Holonyak at the UI, with whom he still collaborates.

Holonyak, inventor of the first practical light-emitting diode and the first semiconductor laser in the visible spectrum, received the National Medal of Science in 1990 from Bush's father, then the president.

Holonyak on Wednesday said he plans to attend the White House ceremony, where he will receive the technology medal from the second President Bush.

"I don't see any way to say no to something that's a White House affair," he said.

Awarded since 1980, the technology medal, according to a White House press release, "recognizes men and women who embody the spirit of American innovation and have advanced the nation's global competitiveness. Their groundbreaking contributions commercialize technologies, create jobs, improve productivity and stimulate the nation's growth and development."

Holonyak said the technology medal, awarded through the Commerce Department, tends to recognize achievements with a more practical impact than the scientific developments recognized by the science medal, which is awarded by the National Science Foundation.

"This is a little bit different," the UI electrical and computer engineering professor said. "There's a lot of stuff in the world of science that is important for scientific reasons but doesn't impact technology."

The fruits of Holonyak's handiwork are all around in the digital displays of everything from heart monitors to VCRs. The lasers at the heart of CD and DVD players, among other things, stem from his work in that field.

High-tech light-emitting diodes – faster to light up, brighter and more durable – are on a course to replace vehicle brake lights and headlights. More energy-efficient and longer-lasting, they should eventually push the lightbulb from homes and other buildings. Craford's company is a leader in the field.

The son of Slavic immigrants who settled in southern Illinois, Holonyak earned his bachelor's degree in 1950, his master's in 1951 and his doctorate in 1954, all from the UI. He was the first graduate student of two-time Nobel Prize winner John Bardeen, the UI professor who invented the transistor.

Already this year, Holonyak in June received the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Medal of Honor, the highest award by the leading professional organization in his field.

Holonyak has received numerous other awards, international as well as national, including the Japan Prize in 1995.

He's a member of the National Academy of Engineering and of the National Academy of Sciences and is a foreign member of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

You can reach Greg Kline at (217) 351-5215 or via e-mail at

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