White House honors CCNY legends Myriam Sarachik and Sheldon Weinbaum

President Joe Biden has awarded the National Medal of Science to Myriam Sarachik (posthumously) and Sheldon Weinbaum, two of the most distinguished researchers and educators of their generation who, collectively, spent more than a century on faculty at The City College of New York. They were among nine recipients of the medal honored at the White House. 

Established in 1959 by the U.S. Congress, the National Medal of Science is the highest recognition the nation can bestow on scientists and engineers. The presidential award is given to individuals deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to knowledge in the physical, biological, mathematical, engineering, or social and behavioral sciences, in service to the nation. These broad areas include such disciplines as astronomy, chemistry, computer and information science and engineering, geoscience, materials research, and research on STEM education. The NMS Program is managed by the National Science Foundation.

“These medalists have made discoveries that enable lifesaving medical treatments, help fight the opioid epidemic, improve food security, advance accessibility, protect our democracy, and much more,” said Biden. “Their accomplishments advance American leadership in science, technology, and innovation, and their work inspires the next generation of American minds.”

U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat, whose 13th congressional district includes CCNY, lauded Sarachik and Weinbaum. “I applaud the recognition of two of New York’s brightest minds, Professor Emerita Myriam Sarachik and Professor Emeritus Sheldon Weinbaum, as recipients of the National Medal of Science. Their incredible achievements in the fields of molecular physics and biomedical engineering have paved the way for a brighter future,” he said.

“Professor Emerita Myriam Sarachik and Professor Emeritus Sheldon Weinbaum were legendary members of the CCNY faculty, reshaping the work and culture of our campus in ways that elevated scholarship, fostered deep collegiality and launched generations of students into meaningful, often pathbreaking careers,” said CCNY President Vincent G. Boudreau. “It is utterly appropriate that both have now received the National Medal of Science, one of the most prestigious awards our nation can offer and a testament to their enduring nationwide influences in the disciplines of science and engineering. I am pleased to offer my heartfelt congratulations to Professor Weinbaum, and to the family of the recently departed and dearly missed Professor Sarachik.”

Following are details about the two City College NMS honorees.

Dr. Myriam Sarachik (August 8, 1933 – October 7, 2021):
Her NMS citation reads: “For her seminal contributions to fundamental experimental studies of molecular nanomagnets, quantum spin dynamics, and spin coherence in condensed matter systems at low temperatures; for her tireless advocacy of human rights throughout the world; and for serving as an inspirational role model for women in physics.”

A trailblazer in her field, Sarachik was Professor Emerita at The City College when she passed away at age 88. She joined CCNY as an assistant professor in 1964 and left a remarkable legacy after more than 50 years teaching and conducting groundbreaking research. 

Among her numerous awards was the Medal for Exceptional Achievement in Research from the American Physical Society in 2020 for “fundamental contributions to the physics of electronic transport in solids and molecular magnetism.” Sarachik was a rarity in experimental physics because of her gender. In addition to overcoming bias against women in science she would become a mentor to generations of younger women in the field and was a life-long advocate for the human rights of all scientists. 

Before her passing, she left a $1.5 million pledge to establish the Myriam Sarachik Professorship Fund for a visiting physics professor in CCNY’s Division of Science

Dr. Sheldon Weinbaum:
Professor Emeritus in CCNY’s Grove School of Engineering, Weinbaum is cited “For pathbreaking research in biomechanics. His models have driven innovation in physiology, bone biology, and blood flow, increasing our understanding of cardiovascular disease and leading to lifesaving treatments. His exceptional teaching and mentorship underscore his lifelong advocacy for diversity and inclusion, tapping into the full talents of [the] nation.”

This is Weinbaum’s second award from the White House. In 2020, he received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM). The White House awards are America’s highest honor for mentors who work with underrepresented groups to develop fully the nation's human resources in STEM.

He was also the recipient of a 2022 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Biomedical Engineering from The Franklin Institute. Past recipients include Nikola Tesla, Marie and Pierre Curie, Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein. More than 120 Franklin Medalists have gone on to  receive the Nobel Prize.

Weinbaum is one of a few people that belong to all three National Academies: Engineering (NAE), Medicine (IOM), and Sciences (NAS).  He was elected to the NAS and the IOM in 2002, and was in the same year named a Guggenheim Fellowship recipient in molecular and cellular biology, the first engineer to ever receive a Guggenheim in this category. His election to the NAE was in 1996. Click here to read more about Dr. Weinbaum.

About The City College of New York
Since 1847, The City College of New York has provided a high-quality and affordable education to generations of New Yorkers in a wide variety of disciplines. CCNY embraces its position at the forefront of social change. It is ranked #1 by the Harvard-based Opportunity Insights out of 369 selective public colleges in the United States on the overall mobility index. This measure reflects both access and outcomes, representing the likelihood that a student at CCNY can move up two or more income quintiles. Education research organization Degree Choices ranks CCNY #1 nationally among universities for economic return on investment. In addition, the Center for World University Rankings places CCNY in the top 1.8% of universities worldwide in terms of academic excellence. Labor analytics firm Emsi (now Lightcast) puts at $1.9 billion CCNY’s annual economic impact on the regional economy (5 boroughs and 5 adjacent counties) and quantifies the “for dollar” return on investment to students, taxpayers and society. At City College, more than 15,000 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in eight schools and divisions, driven by significant funded research, creativity and scholarship. This year, CCNY launched its most expansive fundraising campaign, ever. The campaign, titled “Doing Remarkable Things Together” seeks to bring the College’s Foundation to more than $1 billion in total assets in support of the College mission. CCNY is as diverse, dynamic and visionary as New York City itself. View CCNY Media Kit.

Jay Mwamba
p: 917.892.0374
e: jmwamba@ccny.cuny.edu