Scientists named seventh recipients of Russ Prize

LASIK and PRK eye surgery advancements help earn scientists top bioengineering honor created by OU alumnus

A trio of scientists received a prominent award, modeled after the Nobel Peace Prize and created by an Ohio University alumnus, for their research and contributions to the development of LASIK and PRK eye surgery.

The National Academy of Engineering selected Samuel Blum, Rangaswamy Srinivasan and James Wynne to receive the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ Prize, the bioengineering profession's highest honor, according to a university news release.

“I think it is a fitting achievement for the Russ Prize. The Russes' really wanted to bring awareness to the contributions of science and engineering in our lives,” said Colleen Carow, Russ College's director of external relations. “I think they would be very excited about the 2013 recipients.”

Rangaswamy Srinivasan, an inventor at IBM, said he was delighted when he discovered he was chosen to receive the Russ Prize.

"The Russ Prize doesn’t happen too often and it isn’t too easy," Srinivasan said. "I am thrilled and am happy."

The $500,000 biennial award recognizes a “bioengineering achievement that significantly improves the human condition,” according to the release.

“The three obviously helped improved people’s lives and human conditions,” said Dennis Irwin, dean of OU's Russ College of Engineering and Technology, in the release. “My sister was legally blind in one eye, and for people in a situation like that, this is a huge improvement in their lives. They go from barely functioning to having normal, or close to normal vision.”

Blum, Srinivasan and Wynne were also acknowledged for their development of laser ablative photodecomposition, which made pulsed ultraviolet laser surgery achievable.

“The winners of this year’s Russ Prize exemplify the impacts that can be made when engineers and medical professionals work together,” said NAE President Charles Vest in the release. “Because of their discoveries and collaboration with the surgical community, more than 25 million people enjoy improved eyesight, and the technology they developed holds the promise for other applications as well.”

The trio was recognized by President Barack Obama on Dec. 21, when they were granted the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.
"That is such an honor (to be recognized by the White House)," Srinivasan said. "Just because it is the White House we are being recognized on a national level and people are thrilled."

OU President Roderick McDavis said in the release that the goal in creating the prize was to increase awareness in hopes of inspiring a new generation of engineers.

“We are very grateful to the Russes' and their desire to promote engineering education by creating this extraordinary award, which recognizes how engineering achievements improve the human condition," he said in the release. “Ohio University is proud to partner with the National Academy of Engineering to steward the Russes' vision.”

Irwin said the award continues to establish tradition in rewarding engineers for “exceptional accomplishments.”

Blum, Srinivasan and Wynne are the seventh recipients of the Russ Prize, which was established in 1999. Previous recipients include the inventors of kidney dialysis, the implantable heart pacemaker and the automated DNA sequencer.

"The Russ prize is unique because it focuses directly on the biological applications on engineering," Srinivasan said. "This (our work) is precicely that. I knew all along that I should deserve it but that’s not the same as getting it."

The three will receive the award Feb. 19 at a National Academy of Engineering gala ceremony in Washington D.C.

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