Noted Scientist Dr. Robert S. Langer will be Olin College’s 2021 Commencement Speaker

March 24, 2021

Dr. Robert Langer, one of the world’s most prolific engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs, will be Olin College’s 2021 Commencement Speaker.

With career goals “to help people, to make them happy, and to do good in the world,” Langer has been a professor at MIT for over 40 years and runs the prestigious Langer Lab in the university’s department of chemical engineering. He is widely recognized as the father of controlled drug delivery and tissue engineering.

“Dr. Langer touches and transforms lives – from training the next generation of scientists, engineers and inventors to leading life-changing scientific discoveries – he makes the world a better place. I am fortunate in that I got to know Robert Langer while performing research in his lab during a sabbatical many years ago, so I personally know the positive influence he has on young scientists and engineers. I am honored to welcome him as Olin’s Commencement speaker this year” said Olin College of Engineering President Gilda A. Barabino.

Dr. Robert Langer, prolific engineer, scientist and entrepreneur.

Dr. Robert Langer, prolific engineer, scientist and entrepreneur.

Langer is the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT and one of 10 Institute Professors at MIT, the highest honor that can be awarded to an MIT faculty member. He has over 1,400 issued and pending patents worldwide. Langer’s patents have been licensed or sublicensed to over 400 pharmaceutical, chemical, biotechnology and medical device companies. He is also the most cited engineer in history (h-index 285 with over 335,000 citations according to Google Scholar) and has written more than 1,500 articles.

Langer is a co-founder and serves (or has served) as a member of the Board of Directors of many entities, including Moderna, Living Proof, Momenta, and Frequency Therapeutics. Langer was an early investor in Moderna, the Cambridge, Mass.-based maker of one of the COVID-19 vaccines.

So widespread has been the impact of the innovations from the Langer Lab it has been stated that Langer’s work “has had a significant impact on fighting cancer and heart disease, with more than 100 million people using medicines delivered via his designs.” In 2015, when Langer received the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering (set up to inspire young people to become engineers), he told the BBC: "I've always wanted to see what I can do to help people have happier, healthier lives. I worked in a hospital for a number of years - I've seen different medical problems and I've thought: What can we do to make things better for people?

Langer has received over 220 major awards, the most prestigious including the United States National Medal of Science (2006), the United States National Medal of Technology and Innovation (2011), the Charles Stark Draper Prize (2002), the Millennium Prize (2008), the Priestley Medal (2012), the Wolf Prize in Chemistry (2013), the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences (2014), the Kyoto Prize (2014), and the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering (2015). He is also the first engineer to receive the Gairdner Foundation International Award.

He was most recently awarded the 2020 Maurice-Marie Janot Award, which recognizes an individual researcher, also in the context of a team, whose pioneering work has a groundbreaking impact in the fields of Pharmaceutics, Biopharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Technology.

He served as a member of the United States Food and Drug Administration’s SCIENCE Board, the FDA’s highest advisory board, from 1995 to 2002, and as its Chairman from 1999 to 2002. In 1989, Dr. Langer was elected to the National Academy of Medicine, and in 1992 he was elected to both the National Academy of Engineering and to the National Academy of Sciences. In 2012, he was elected to the National Academy of Inventors.

Langer completed his undergraduate studies at Cornell University and obtained his Sc.D. at MIT, both in Chemical Engineering. 

Founded in 1997, Olin College of Engineering instills passion and ignites innovation in its students and prepares them to envision, create and deliver products, services, and systems that transform and improve people’s lives around the world. Olin teaches students to be explorers and creators who design their own path forward. By challenging norms and sharing its unique approach to education, Olin is revolutionizing the way engineers, and all undergraduates, learn and create knowledge. Located in Needham Massachusetts, Olin is ranked among the top-three undergraduate engineering programs in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

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