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American Chemical Society Names Paul Alivisatos 2021 Priestley Medalist, Society’s Highest Honor; Award Recognizes Alivisatos’ Foundational Contributions to the Chemistry of Nanoscience, Including Development of Nanocrystals As Nanotech Building Blocks

On June 30, 2020, the American Chemical Society (ACS) announced that it has selected Paul Alivisatos (photo), PhD, of the University of California (UC), Berkeley as the recipient of the 2021 Priestley Medal, the Society’s highest honor. Dr. Alivisatos (, the Samsung Distinguished Professor in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Research and Professor of Chemistry and Materials Science and Engineering at the University of California (UC) Berkeley, is being recognized for “foundational contributions to the chemistry of nanoscience, development of nanocrystals as nanotechnology building blocks and leadership in the chemistry and nanoscience communities.” “Dr. Alivisatos is a true innovator in the field of nanoscience and chemistry as a whole,” says ACS CEO Thomas Connelly Jr., PhD. “His groundbreaking contributions to the fundamental physical chemistry of nanocrystals, as well as laying the foundation for the development of colloidal quantum dots, have led to significant advances in technology, medicine and renewable energy. That tremendous scientific legacy is now cemented, and I offer my heartfelt congratulations.” Dr. Alivisatos has spent the majority of his career studying nanocrystals, including their behavior and synthesis. In one of his first major breakthroughs as a pioneer in a then-emerging field, he demonstrated a method for growing quantum dots--semiconductor nanocrystals smaller than 10 nanometers--into two-dimensional shapes. This ability to create nanomaterials with precision and complexity is used by scientists and companies worldwide to create new biomedical imaging technology, high-resolution electronic displays, and energy-efficient technologies, all of which utilize quantum dots. “Paul has been a powerful voice for science at the cutting edge,” says Geraldine Richmond, PhD, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oregon and 2018 recipient of the Priestley Medal. “He has been a national and global voice for science that addresses the greatest challenges we face today, and for education that is accessible to all, regardless of income or background or national or ethnic origin.”

Dr. Alivisatos received his doctorate from UC Berkeley in 1986 and joined the faculty as a Professor of Chemistry in 1988. He is the author of nearly 400 research articles and holds 50 patents, and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2004. He was a recipient of the National Medal of Science in 2014, and was a member of the inaugural class of ACS Fellows in 2009.

In addition to his research initiatives, Dr. Alivisatos is the founding editor-in-chief of Nano Letters, ACS’ first peer-reviewed journal covering all aspects of nanoscience and nanotechnology. He is also the founder of the Quantum Dot Corporation and Nanosys, both of which use the nanotechnology innovations championed by Dr. Alivisatos to develop an array of products.

“Paul Alivisatos is a superb choice to receive the 2021 Priestley Medal. He is a tireless advocate for science and leader in the field of nanoscience, as his many accolades and accomplishments highlight,” says ACS President Luis Echegoyen, PhD. “And as the founding editor of Nano Letters, he has played a large role in making ACS journals the most-trusted, most-cited, and most-read journals in the chemical sciences.”

Dr. Alivisatos will be presented with the Priestley Medal at the ACS Fall 2021 National Meeting & Expo in Atlanta, Georgia.


The American Chemical Society (ACS) is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. The ACS mission is to advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of the Earth and its people. The Society is a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple research solutions, peer-reviewed journals, scientific conferences, eBooks, and weekly news periodical Chemical & Engineering News. ACS journals are among the most cited, most trusted, and most read within the scientific literature; however, ACS itself does not conduct chemical research. As a specialist in scientific information solutions (including SciFinder® and STN®), the Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) ( division of ACS powers global research, discovery, and innovation. The ACS main offices are in Washington, DC, and Columbus, Ohio.

[ACS press release] [ACS]