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College of Science alumnus receives highest North Carolina civilian honor


BLACKSBURG, Va., Nov. 5, 2009 – Virginia Tech alumnus Joseph M. DeSimone, of Chapel Hill, N.C., has received the 2009 North Carolina Award, the state's highest civilian honor.

DeSimone earned his Ph.D. in chemistry from the College of Science in 1990. He studied under University Distinguished Professor James McGrath and went on to pursue highly successful research, academic, and business ventures in polymer science.

In the award citation, DeSimone was recognized for his ability to apply his inventions and innovations in polymer chemistry and nanoscience to a variety of fields, including manufacturing and medicine.

Upon completion of his doctorate, DeSimone joined the polymer chemistry program at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. He now holds distinguished seats at both UNC and North Carolina State University. He was the youngest member appointed to the National Academy of Engineering. In 2008, he won the Lemelson-MIT prize, and earlier this year, he received the National Institutes of Health Director’s Pioneer Award.

In addition, DeSimone received the 2009 Virginia Tech Graduate Alumni Achievement Award.

In bestowing the honor, the award committee noted that DeSimone “regularly plumbs the complex sciences for applications that address universal concerns such as cancer and the environment.”

DeSimone has launched two companies based on his inventions — a green dry cleaning company and Liquidia Technologies, manufacturer of nanocarriers for pharmaceuticals and medical diagnostics. He holds 120 domestic and international patents and more than 100 additional pending patents.

DeSimone joins the ranks of notable past winners of the award, including broadcaster Charles Kuralt, Senator Elizabeth Dole, actor Andy Griffith, and poet Maya Angelou. The award, started in 1964, recognizes outstanding attainments of North Carolinians in the fields of literature, science, the fine arts, and public service.

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