Centenary Prize 2012 Winner

Timothy Swager
Professor Timothy Swager
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

For his creative genius in applying fundamental chemical principles to real-life problems, as illustrated by his invention of new materials for the selective detection of explosives.

About the Winner

Timothy M. Swager is the John D. MacArthur Professor of Chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A native of Montana, he received a BS from Montana State University in 1983 and a Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 1988.

After a postdoctoral appointment at MIT he was on the chemistry faculty at the University of Pennsylvania and returned to MIT in of 1996 as a Professor of Chemistry and served as the Head of Chemistry from 2005-2010.  He has published more than 300 peer-reviewed papers and 48 issued/pending patents. Swager’s honors include: The John Scott Award, Election to the National Academy of Sciences, an Honorary Doctorate from Montana State University, the Lemelson-MIT Award for Invention and Innovation, Election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Christopher Columbus Foundation Homeland Security Award, and The Carl S. Marvel Creative Polymer Chemistry Award (ACS).

Swager’s research interests are in design, synthesis, and study of organic-based electronic, sensory, high-strength and liquid crystalline materials.  In the field of liquid crystals he developed new designs based upon shape complementarity to generate specific interactions between molecules and has recently developed fundamental mechanisms for increasing the order in liquid crystals by a new mechanism referred to as minimization of free volume. 

Swager’s research in electronic polymers has been mainly directed at the demonstration of new conceptual approaches to the construction of sensory materials.  These methods are the basis of the FidoTM explosives detectors (FLIR Systems Inc), which have the highest sensitivity of any explosives sensor. Other areas actively investigated by the Swager group include radicals for dynamic nuclear polarization, applications of nano-carbon materials, organic photovoltaic materials, polymer actuators, and luminescent molecular probes for medical diagnostics.  

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