Frederick Hawthorne wins National Medal of Science

Thursday, December 27, 2012 | 5:14 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — President Barack Obama granted one MU researcher the highest honor the government can grant to scientists, engineers and inventors last week.

M. Frederick Hawthorne is the first MU researcher ever to receive the National Medal of Science. He and 11 other scientists will receive their awards at a White House ceremony in early 2013.


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Hawthorne is the director of MU's International Institute of Nano and Molecular Medicine and Curators' Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Radiology.

His work with the chemical element boron led to the award. Developing the technique, Boron Neuron Capture Therapy, Hawthorne's work has been used in experimental treatments for cancer, arthritis and other diseases, according to a previous Missourian article. 

His work with boron has also been used to fight heart disease and Alzheimer’s.

"I am proud to honor these inspiring American innovators," President Obama said in a news release. "They represent the ingenuity and imagination that has long made this nation great — and they remind us of the enormous impact a few good ideas can have when these creative qualities are unleashed in an entrepreneurial environment."

Hawthorne came to MU to utilize the array of resources the university could provide to conduct his research. In an MU news release, he said that the variety of science disciplines and humanities offered at MU, the research nuclear reactor and the "very strong, collegial biomedicine departments" make MU unique. 

"When Dr. Hawthorne came to MU in 2006, I was sure that he would advance MU’s national leadership in nanomedicine and cancer research while providing break-through technology and medical solutions for the world," MU Chancellor Brady Deaton said in an MU news release. "This acknowledgement by President Obama of Dr. Hawthorne’s work is especially gratifying and well deserved."

MU's International Institute of Nano and Molecular Medicine was created primarily to further Hawthorne’s research. In addition to studying boron, the release said, the institute focuses on the uses of nanotechnology in medicine, engineering microscopic motors, inventing methods to store hydrogen fuel and designing materials to store energy.

Supervising editor is Zach Murdock.

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