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Developer of advanced computing memory, father of biochemical engineering, and innovative engineering educators win highest engineering honors of 2009

WASHINGTON -- The engineering profession's highest honors for 2009, presented by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), recognize three achievements that helped the expansion of computing power; led to the widespread production of antibiotics; and developed unique entrepreneurial-themed curricula for engineers.

ROBERT H. DENNARD will receive the prestigious Charles Stark Draper Prize -- a $500,000 annual award that honors engineers whose accomplishments have significantly benefited society -- "for his invention and contributions to the development of Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM), used universally in computers and other data processing and communication systems."

ELMER GADEN will receive the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ Prize -- a $500,000 biennial award that recognizes a bioengineering achievement which significantly improves the human condition -- "for pioneering the engineering of biological reactors for large-scale, low-cost production of antibiotics and other drugs."

TOM BYERS and TINA SEELIG will share the Bernard M. Gordon Prize -- a $500,000 award issued annually that recognizes innovation in engineering and technology education -- "for pioneering, continually developing, and tirelessly disseminating technology entrepreneurship education resources for engineering students and educators around the world."

The prizes will be presented at a gala dinner in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 17, 2009.


Robert Dennard's invention of dynamic random access memory (DRAM) using one-transistor cells paved the way for the worldwide explosion of computing.

DRAM is a form of computer memory that puts bits of data into capacitors energy-storage devices within a miniaturized electronic circuit and periodically recharges the capacitors so that the information in them is not lost. His one-transistor design was a vast improvement over the six-transistor cell in use at that time. Dennard's ability to use only a single metal-oxide-semiconductor (MOS) transistor a device that conducts electricity, amplifying the charge as the electricity is passed along allowed his memory cell to be much smaller and simpler in design than its predecessor.

In addition, Dennard and associates developed the set of consistent scaling principles for miniaturizing MOS transistors and the integrated circuits using them, which are the basis for today's electronic microprocessor and DRAM chips. In the early 1970s the industry was concerned with how far MOS transistors could be miniaturized without affecting their switching ability. Dennard's IBM group introduced a theory called constant-field scaling which addressed these issues. This scaling allowed for computers to run faster on significantly less energy and thus be less costly to operate and is a major driver of the industry. His 1974 paper on MOS transistor scaling is universally referenced and has been reprinted as a "Classic Paper" in the PROCEEDINGS OF THE IEEE.

The availability of cheap, high-density memory that has come about due to the invention of the DRAM cell has enabled tremendous growth in computing over the past 40 years. The DRAM market is estimated to have totaled $420 billion in sales through 2008.

After earning B.S. and M.S. degrees in electrical engineering from Southern Methodist University and a Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University in 1958, Dennard spent his entire professional career in various positions at IBM, including the prestigious title of IBM Fellow beginning in 1979. He was elected to the NAE in 1984.


Elmer Gaden is known as the "father of biochemical engineering" and was instrumental in ushering in the global availability of antibiotics such as penicillin. His breakthroughs in developing technologies that provide the proper amount of oxygen needed for the growth of antibiotics known as "aerobic fermentation" allowed the drugs to be inexpensively manufactured and widely available. His achievements fostered a multibillion dollar antibiotics industry and a field that has contributed immeasurably to the improvement of the human condition.

In addition, Gaden established the journal BIOTECHNOLOGY AND BIOENGINEERING, where he served as editor for 25 years. The journal is recognized as the primary medium through which worldwide bioprocess engineering research is shared in the profession.

After a brief time in industry at Pfizer Inc., Gaden spent the remainder of his career in academia, first teaching chemical engineering at his alma mater, Columbia University, followed with teaching and administrative positions at the University of Vermont and the University of Virginia. He was elected to the NAE in 1974.


Tom Byers and Tina Seelig are recognized for their work with the Stanford Technology Ventures Program (STVP) at Stanford University. STVP is an education center that provides students across the university with entrepreneurial skills needed to use innovations to solve major world problems, with an emphasis on the environment, human health, and information technology.

Based in the School of Engineering, STVP hosts 25 different courses on entrepreneurship, innovation, and leadership, and reaches nearly 2,000 students each academic year. Located in Silicon Valley, STVP draws upon experts in the venture capital and technology fields for instruction and partnerships.

The pair created the Roundtable for Entrepreneurship Education conferences as part of STVP, to facilitate a global dialogue with other educators about best practices in technology entrepreneurship education. The conferences are now held annually on four continents. Byers and Seelig have also developed the Stanford Entrepreneurship Corner Web site, which is a free collection of video clips and podcasts for viewers around the world who wish to learn more about entrepreneurship and innovation. Through these efforts, the program has influenced hundreds of educators and tens of thousands of their students worldwide.

Byers and Seelig had previously both worked in industry before becoming full-time educators at Stanford University. In recognition of their contributions with STVP, they have received many honors, including the 2008 National Olympus Innovation Award and several key teaching awards at Stanford.


Contact: Nathan Kahl
National Academy of Sciences

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