It was the first day of the spring 2010 semester and two students were in John Goodenough‘s office conferring about experiments and research papers. On Goodenough’s desk were papers he was to referee. Later, there were classes to teach.
Of course, it was a career of such tasks and a lot of work in the lab that made Goodenough the toast of the town in Washington, D.C., a week earlier.
That’s where he received the 2009 Enrico Fermi award from U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu. Goodenough is a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the Cockrell School of Engineering.
Also there were John Holdren, director of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy; Steven Kunin, the DOE undersecretary for science; William F. Brinkman, director of the DOE’s Office of Science, and about 250 others, including members of Congress.
The co-recipient of the award was Siegfried Hecker, co-director of the Center for International Understanding and Cooperation at Stanford University and former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Before the ceremony, Ray Orbach, director of the university’s Energy Institute and a former science undersecretary at the DOE, hosted a lunch for Goodenough at the Cosmos Club in Washington.
Goodenough received the award for his “enduring contributions in a broad range of technology fields-from ceramic magnetic memory to fuel cells and to high temperature superconductors,” according to the DOE.
The agency noted Goodenough’s development of cathode materials for lithium rechargeable batteries. His discoveries laid the foundation for the portable electronics revolution beginning with cell phones and laptop computers, and has enabled a new generation of plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles being commercialized around the world.
In his acceptance remarks, Goodenough sketched his career and stressed the importance of collaboration and interdisciplinary research not only to science but to the world.
“This brief tour of my personal history illustrates, I hope, how essential are the interactions between basic science and technology and between different scientific disciplines if we are to develop transformational technologies, technologies that are sustainable and broadly available,” he said in his Fermi remarks. “We must find a way to avoid the developing conflicts over the resources that society needs and to achieve a greater social justice in the world. I am most grateful that the leadership in Washington that is present here today understands well this imperative.”