Penn State scientists have been part of Nobel Prize-winning team and inducted into the National Academy of Scientists. Now they can add the Golden Goose Award to their list of laurels.
A group of science organizations established the award this year to highlight the breakthroughs that can come from research that might seem frivolous at first glance. It serves as a sort of counter to the Golden Fleece Award, which the late Sen. William Proxmire handed out to highlight federal funding for research that seemed dubious.
Winners of the inaugural Golden Goose Award include Della Roy, a Penn State professor emerita of materials science and engineering; Eugene White, a former Penn State faculty member; Rodney White, Eugene White’s nephew and a medical student at the time; and the late Jon Weber, a marine biologist at Penn State.
Their work with marine corals had its start in the 1970s. Roy said her part was looking at whether a natural material, in this case sea coral, could be converted into material that could be used for human body implants. The answer was yes. She received a patent for it.
“I think what they’re trying to do is very worthwhile,” Roy said of the Golden Goose Award. “You need to get funding for basic research if it’s going to have any practical applications. So, the agencies like the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health and so on need to be aware of that.”
The other award recipients were: Charles Towns, whose research from the 1950s opened the door to laser technology, earning him a Nobel Prize; and Martin Chalfie, Roger Tsien and Osamu Shimomura, whose work started with glow in the dark jellyfish and led to methods the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries use.
Organizers hope the awards will show the need for federal funding to support that research. A number of organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities started the award, which U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., originally came up with. Awards were given out earlier this month.
Anne Danahy can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @AnneDanahy