Purdue engineer receives top award from President Obama

October 21, 2011

President Barak Obama congratulates Purdue's Rakesh Agrawal (left) during the presentation of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in Washington, D.C. The award is the highest honor for technological achievement bestowed by the president of the United States. (Photos by Ryan K. Morris Photography)

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Rakesh Agrawal, a distinguished professor of chemical engineering at Purdue University, on Friday (Oct. 21) received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Barack Obama in a White House ceremony.

The award is the highest honor for technological achievement bestowed by the U.S. government.

Agrawal, the Winthrop E. Stone Distinguished Professor in the School of Chemical Engineering, holds 116 U.S. patents, nearly 500 non-U.S. patents and has authored 93 technical papers.

He received the award with four other recipients of both the National Medals of Science and the National Medals of Technology and Innovation.

A citation for the award recognizes Agrawal for "an extraordinary record of innovations. These innovations have had significant positive impacts on electronic device manufacturing, liquefied gas production and the supply of industrial gases for diverse industries."

Agrawal earlier this week also received the highest award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the Founders Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Field of Chemical Engineering. Agrawal was cited for "an extraordinary record of innovations and contributions to the fields of separations, cryogenics and energy."

His current research is in energy-related areas involving the conversion of biomass to liquid fuels, processes related to low-cost solar cells, energy systems analysis, and high-efficiency separations processes needed for industry and research.

A member of the National Academy of Engineering, he served on the National Research Council (NRC) panel that issued a report called "The Hydrogen Economy: Opportunities, Costs, Barriers and R&D Needs." He also has served on the National Academies Renewables Panel for the Committee on America's Energy Future, and he currently is a member of the NRC's Board on Energy and Environmental Systems.

The award recipients were announced Sept. 27, and a news release with more information is available at http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/research/2011/110927AgrawalPresidential.html

Agrawal earned a doctorate in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1980, a master's degree in chemical engineering from the University of Delaware in 1977 and a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in 1975.

Agrawal joined Purdue in 2004 following a career in industry that included 24 years at Air Products and Chemicals Inc. in Allentown, Pa. Previously, he has focused on basic and applied research in gas separations, process development, gas liquefication processes, cryogenics and thermodynamics.

The National Medal of Technology and Innovation was created in 1980 and is administered for the White House by the U.S. Department of Commerce's Patent and Trademark Office. The medal "recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to science and engineering," according to the White House statement.

Agrawal is the third Purdue faculty member to have received a National Medal of Technology. The other two were Jerry Woodall, a distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering, and the late Leslie Geddes, a distinguished professor of biomedical engineering.

Writer: Emil Venere, 765-494-4709, venere@purdue.edu

Source: Rakesh Agrawal, 765-494-2257, agrawalr@purdue.edu

Related information:

White House announcement

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Note to Journalists:  An additional publication-quality photo of Rakesh Agrawal is available at http://news.uns.purdue.edu/images/2011/agrawal-r11.jpg