MIT’s Professor Robert Langer, biomedical engineer and serial entrepreneur, is this year’s sole winner of the £1m Queen Elizabeth Engineering Prize.
Professor Langer, who runs the 100-strong Langer Lab at MIT, told the Financial Times that “it is a great honour to win what is by far the biggest engineering award in the world.”
His research led to the development of drug delivery designs that would allow drugs to be released in the body over an extended period of time. His polymers were designed with long, water-filled channels that allow large molecules to gradually pass. This has specific possibilities for drugs that target conditions like cancer, mental illness and diabetes.
The prize, awarded to engineers from all over the world whose research has affected millions, if not billions of lives, is part of a UK initiative to promote engineering on a global scale, and is thought to be the equivalent of a Nobel. The 2013 award was shared by 5 people who were involved in the invention of the internet, including Sir Tim Berners-Lee.
This year, on May 20th, Professor Langer will be opening the Naturejobs Career Expo in Boston as the Keynote speaker.
When speaking to Naturejobs a few months ago, he said that he hopes to inspire young academics to not give up on their dreams. “Follow your heart” was his main message, and it’s certainly what he has done with his career. His time in academia wasn’t always easy but that never deterred him. Helen Pearson captured his attitude for a Nature piece in March 2009 when she spent a day with him.
“There is a personal aspect, he says, “a combination of stubbornness, risk taking, perhaps being reasonably smart and wanting to do good”. But there is also just the chance of what turns up.”
Langer’s profile is interesting, not just because of his success, but almost the opposite — because his earlier career was riddled with hurdles to overcome, making him more of an inspiration to all struggling scientists.
At the Expo, Langer will be exploring many of these issues, in particular, the importance of following your passion and dreams in the face of adversity, and the value of an entrepreneurial attitude to academic research.
We very much look forward to welcoming Professor Langer to the Boston Naturejobs Career Expo, and we hope to see many of you there.