Harry A. Atwater, Jr., Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science as well as the Director of the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, is the 2016 recipient of the James King Jr. Award. The award is given annual by the Caltech Center for Diversity to an individual who stands out as a strong supporter of diversity. Professor Atwater received several nominations which recognized “his commitment to recruiting, training, and encouraging female scientists to join and thrive in his research group.” One of his nominators wrote, “He has stood up for his female students when they have faced gender-biased behavior from others, and is a true advocate for all his students.” Another nominator stated that he “is a glowing example of how supportive faculty members can be in advisory roles.” Professor Atwater’s “efforts have long term positive effects for combating gender imbalances in academia.”
The award is named in honor of James King Jr. who is a noted scientist and community leader. Dr. King received his B.S. in chemistry and mathematics from Morehouse College and then came to Caltech for his graduate work in chemical physics (MS ‘55 and PhD ‘58). His efforts to increase access to education and research at Caltech and JPL is part of an extraordinary list of professional accomplishments. Dr. King was Deputy Assistant Laboratory Director at JPL and served as the Director for Engineering and Science as well as the Chairman of the JPL Employee Ethnic Advisory Committee.