Harvey Prize Awarded to MIT and UC Berkeley Professors

Biology Professor Eric S. Lander of the Eli and Edythe Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, and Eli Yablonovitch, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley, were awarded the 2012 Harvey Prize in a ceremony April 30 at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel.

The awarding of the Harvey Prize is watched closely worldwide, as it is often regarded as a strong predictor of future Nobel Prize laureates. The international prize is awarded annually by the Technion in a variety of disciplines within the categories of Science and Technology and Human Health. It has also been awarded for contributions to Peace in the Middle East.

Prof. Lander, the founding director of the Broad Institute and one of the principal leaders of the Human Genome Project, received the award in the area of Human Health for his contributions to the field of genomics. Calling Prof. Lander a “driving force behind most of the major advances in this field,” the citation for the prize read: “He has made important contributions by both developing methods to exploit the power of genetic information and leading large endeavors to identify and annotate entire genomes. Most notably, he consolidated the efforts of the Human Genome Project and first authored the resulting historic manuscript. Prof. Lander also pioneered the analysis of the genetic components underlying complex diseases, including cancer.”

Prof. Eric Lander

Prof. Eric Lander speaks during the Harvey Prize Ceremony.
Also pictured is Technion Prof. Eliezer Shalev

In accepting his award, Prof. Lander credited his success to a series of “lucky accidents,” including a chance meeting with Princeton University Professor David Botstein, who invited Prof. Lander to work with him on mapping diseases. “I had no inkling of what was yet to come. But the idea of the Human Genome Project was in the air.” He recounted an unlikely career, in which he studied mathematics and taught business before discovering the sense of “shared purpose” in working collaboratively on a larger project.

Prof. Lander, who is the Professor of Biology at MIT and Professor of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School, has received numerous awards including the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, the Gairdner Foundation International Award, the Max Delbruck Medal, the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology, among others, and eight honorary doctorates. In 2009, President Obama appointed him to co-chair the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Prof. Yablonovitch, the Director of the National Science Foundation Center for Energy Efficient Electronics Science at UC Berkeley, received the award in the area of Science and Technology in recognition of “his pioneering discoveries in the fields of photonics, optoelectronics and semiconductors.” In his photovoltaic research, Prof. Yablonovitch introduced the 4n2 light-trapping factor that is in worldwide use for almost all commercial solar panels. This factor, sometimes called the “Yablonovitch Limit” increased the theoretical limits and practical efficiency of solar cells. Prof. Yablonovitch is also regarded as the Father of the Photonic BandGap concept, and as having coined the term “Photonic Crystal.”

Prof. Eli Yablonovitch
Prof. Eli Yablonovitch

In accepting his award Prof. Yablonovitch, who holds the James & Katherine Lau Chair in Engineering, credited Israel for its success in educating young scientists. But he noted that Israel should provide job opportunities for “graduates to further develop their scientific potential” post-graduate school, as he was able to do at Bell Laboratories.

Prof. Yablonovitch has received numerous awards including the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ (IEEE) Photonics Award, The Institution of Engineering and Technology’s Mountbatten Medal, the Julius Springer Prize, the R.W. Wood Prize, the W. Streifer Scientific Achievement Award, and the Adolf Lomb Medal. He holds two honorary doctorates, is a Fellow of the IEEE, and a member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

The Harvey Prize was first awarded in 1972 from a fund established by the late Leo M. Harvey, and maintained by his son, Technion Guardian Homer Harvey and the Harvey Family of Los Angeles. Some 13 Harvey Prize recipients have also been awarded the Nobel Prize including former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and Israelis Robert Aumann and Ada Yonath.

Below please find links to films from the event, including the musical performances from the ceremony, acceptance speeches and academic lectures.
To watch the ceremony speech given by Prof. Lander, click here.

To watch the ceremony speech given by Prof. Yablonovitch, click here.
To watch Prof. Lander's talk on "Secrets of The Human Genome/Biology," click here.  To see his talk on "Secrets of the Human Genome/Medicine," click here.
To watch Prof. Yablonovitch's talk, entitled "Photonic Crystals in Science, Engineering and the World of Nature, click here.

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is a major source of the innovation and brainpower that drives the Israeli economy, and a key to Israel’s renown as the world’s “Start-Up Nation.” Its three Nobel Prize winners exemplify academic excellence. Technion people, ideas and inventions make immeasurable contributions to the world including life-saving medicine, sustainable energy, computer science, water conservation and nanotechnology. The Joan and Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute is a vital component of Cornell NYC Tech, and a model for graduate applied science education that is expected to transform New York City’s economy.

American Technion Society (ATS) donors provide critical support for the Technion—more than $1.9 billion since its inception in 1940. Based in New York City, the ATS and its network of chapters across the U.S. provide funds for scholarships, fellowships, faculty recruitment and chairs, research, buildings, laboratories, classrooms and dormitories, and more.


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