Dr. Joel M. Schnur Named Presidential Rank Meritorious Executive

11/19/2001 - 36-01r
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Dr. Joel M. Schnur, head of NRL's Center for Bio/Molecular Science and Engineering (CBMSE), is a recipient of the 2001 Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Executive. Awardees are members of the Senior Executive Service whose qualifications are evaluated by citizen panels for final selection by the President. The Meritorious Executive Award is recognition for sustained accomplishments.

The award nomination notes Dr. Schnur's "pioneering leadership in the development of the field of bio/molecular science and technology has led to critical new understanding of diverse areas of science and the connections between them which are important for the development of new DOD technology in the area of biological warfare defense and advanced bioelectronic materials."

Dr. Schnur's research interests focus on understanding the relationship between the structure of molecules, observed macroscopic phenomena, and biological function. This interest has led him from studies of critical phenomena, liquid crystals, picosecond spectroscopy, high pressure and shock-related phenomena to studies of self-assembly of biologically derived microstructures, DNA, and cellular constructs.

Working in these areas, Dr. Schnur developed an appreciation of interdisciplinary research and the value of new ideas that could arise when the fields of chemistry, biology, and physics are simultaneously applied to scientific problems. He has encouraged researchers with different areas of expertise to combine their skills to lead to new science and technology efforts, which the nomination notes, "are greater than the sum of the individual parts of the research team."

In 1982, Dr. Schnur proposed a new NRL program in Bio/Molecular Science and Engineering that has since grown from a small research group of 5 into the established NRL research division that he now leads. With 100 employees from multiple disciplines, CBMSE has an international reputation for high quality science and technology. Its scientists have published over 800 papers and 100 patents and disclosures since 1984, leading to more than 8000 citations in the scientific literature.

Dr. Schnur has been a strong and creative scientific and administrative leader, applying the tools of advanced biology to the complex material problems. Highlights of research advances made by CBMSE scientists under his leadership include the:

--development of a process for coating plastic and silicon with metal at 100-Angstrom resolution,
--development of fiber optic DNA probes for use in Operation Desert Storm,
--observation, development, and demonstration of liposome-encapsulated hemoglobin as a potential blood surrogate,  
--development and demonstration of cell based biosensors,
--development of a portable biosensor carried on a small unmanned aircraft,
--development of a flow immunosensor which has led to commercial licensing for drug testing and approval by the EPA for groundwater testing,
--development, field testing, and delivery of the portable biosensor RAPTOR to the U.S. Marine Corps,
--development and licensing of liquid crystal alignment technology,
--development of a conducting polymer-based liquid-crystal display,
--development of a liquid crystal-based room-temperature pyroelectric sensor element, and
--discovery and development of lipid sub micron tubules in bioelectronic composites for RF attenuation.

In 1989, Dr. Schnur broke new ground for the use of Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) in the Navy. Recognizing the commercial applications of his group's discoveries in high-resolution patterning for integrated and microwave circuitry, he engineered a large-scale CRADA with the Shipley Company. This led to the licensing of NRL's patents on high-resolution patterning. Total CRADA investments from Shipley and the royalties to NRL are well in excess of $1 million.

Dr. Schnur has worked with many government agencies in developing global scientific strategies for the U.S. In 1994, Dr. Schnur was invited to be a member of the National Research Council panel on biomolecular materials and is a coauthor of the NRC report on that subject. He has been a member of several NSF and NIH panels for the development of strategic plans in the biocentric and nanotechnology areas.

As a result of Dr. Schnur's leadership and mentorship, the Center has active collaborations today with more than 20 universities, many companies, and government agencies. He has given over 200 invited talks, many of which have led to the development of new programs, new collaborations or the recruitment of new scientists to the Center. Dr. Schnur has represented the Navy in both basic and applied research programs for the Defense Reliance and the OSD Technical Area Review and Assessment (TARA) processes and DDR&E. Working with his ONR counterparts, Dr. Schnur helped formulate a Navy Corporate Strategic Investment and Operating Plan in the area of biocentric technology.

Dr. Schnur joined NRL in 1972 as head of the Molecular Optics Section in the Optical Sciences Division. From 1979 to 1983, he was deputy head of the Division's Optical Probes Branch. Following that assignment, Dr. Schnur spent one year as Professeur Associé at the University of Paris VI. He returned to NRL in 1984 as head of the Bio/Molecular Engineering Branch in the Chemistry Division.

Simultaneously, Dr. Schnur served as the Director for the Center for Bio/Molecular Science and Engineering in the Materials Science and Component Technology Directorate. In 1989, the Center was designated as a division, where it exists organizationally today. Dr. Schnur has been the head of the Division since its inception.

Dr. Schnur received an A.B. in chemistry from Rutgers University, an M.S. degree in physical chemistry and Ph.D. in physical chemistry/physics from Georgetown University. He served as an NRC Postdoctoral Fellow at NRL in 1971 and 1972, and as a National Academy Fellow at the University de Paris-Sud in France and Istituto di Fisica in Italy in 1973.

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