Release Date: September 18, 2009
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- President Barack Obama announced yesterday that Esther S. Takeuchi, Ph.D., Greatbatch Professor in Power Sources Research in the University at Buffalo School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, has been awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the highest honor awarded in the U.S. for technological achievement.
Takeuchi, a UB faculty member since 2007, is the first UB professor to receive this honor. She will receive the medal from Obama at a White House ceremony to be held Oct. 7.
The National Medal of Technology and Innovation is administered for the White House by the U.S. Department of Commerce's U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It recognizes individuals or companies for outstanding contributions to the promotion of technology for the improvement of the economic, environmental or social well-being of the United States.
In a statement, Obama described the medal's four awardees -- of whom Takeuchi is the only woman – as embodying "the very best of American ingenuity and inspiring a new generation of thinkers and innovators. Their extraordinary achievements strengthen our nation every day -- not just intellectually and technologically but also economically, by helping create new industries and opportunities that others before them could never have imagined."
UB President John B. Simpson noted that the medal is the very highest honor that can be bestowed upon an American inventor by the President of the United States and is "a fitting tribute to Esther Takeuchi's extraordinary career.
"Professor Takeuchi's work on power sources for biomedical devices has made possible life-saving technologies that have truly meant the difference between life and death for people around the world," Simpson said.
"And while her scientific contributions alone exceed the criteria for this award, it also is true that her presence as a faculty member at UB has, and will continue to, deeply enrich the experience of students and faculty. As a biomedical engineer whose career has flourished both in the private sector and in the academy, she also demonstrates the absolutely critical connection that exists now between UB and industry. I heartily congratulate her on this well-deserved award."
A resident of East Amherst, N.Y., Takeuchi was previously chief scientist at Greatbatch, Inc., where she worked for 22 years. Her development of the lithium/silver vanadium oxide battery while at Greatbatch was a major factor in bringing implantable cardiac defibrillators (ICDs) into production in the late 1980s. ICDs shock the heart into a normal rhythm when it goes into fibrillation.
Twenty years later, with more than 200,000 of these units being implanted every year, the majority of them are powered by the batteries developed and improved by Takeuchi and her team.
She often is cited as the woman awarded the most patents in the U.S. -- more than 140 at last count, most of them related to her pioneering development of sophisticated power sources for implantable devices, now a booming multibillion-dollar business. Named to the prestigious National Academy of Engineering in 2004, she is one of just 104 women elected to the organization, considered the highest distinction that an engineering professional can achieve. Less than five percent of the academy's 2,400 active members are women.
Takeuchi was hired at UB as a professor in the UB departments of Chemical and Biological Engineering and Electrical Engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the Department of Chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences; she also will be taking on additional responsibilities in UB's new initiative in biomedical engineering, a cross-disciplinary effort between UB Engineering and the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
At UB, Takeuchi now is applying some of the same principles involved in her signature inventions -- the tiny batteries that helped make implantable cardiac defibrillators and other medical devices a life-saving reality -- to power source issues key to developing electric vehicles and alternative energy storage devices.
She also is working on some applications for homeland security that rely on sensors and require more efficient and portable power sources.
Currently, as part of the UB initiative in biomedical engineering, Takeuchi and her colleagues also are working with researchers at the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences to explore how new concepts for medical devices they developed could be powered.
Takeuchi is a member of the faculty advisory board of the strategic strength in Integrated Nanostructured Systems identified in the UB 2020 planning process, which brings together researchers in the life sciences, medicine and engineering to promote interdisciplinary advancements.
A fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, Takeuchi received the 2008 Astellas USA Foundation Award, administered by the American Chemical Society, as well as the Battery Division of the Electrochemical Society Technology Award for development of lithium/silver vanadium oxide batteries and the Jacob F. Schoellkopf Award by the Western New York American Chemical Society for creative research in batteries for medical applications.
She has received the Inventor of the Year Award, Physical Sciences, of the Technical Societies Council of the Niagara Frontier and the Niagara Frontier Intellectual Property Law Association; a Pioneers of Science Award from Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute; a citation from UB's Community Advisory Board for outstanding achievement in science; a Woman of Distinction citation from the American Association of University Women and the Achievement in Healthcare Award from D'Youville College. She also was inducted into the Western New York Women's Hall of Fame.
A past member of the board of directors of the Buffalo Museum of Science and its executive committee and of the Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart, Takeuchi also is active in the YWCA and the Western New York Pioneers of Science Program.
She earned her doctorate in chemistry at the Ohio State University and completed post-doctoral work in electrochemistry at the University of North Carolina and UB. She received a bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania with a double major in chemistry and history.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.