Willson Accepts Japan Prize

Grant C. Willson, professor of chemical engineering and chemistry, recently accepted the Japan Prize, one of the most prestigious international awards in science and technology, for his development of a process used to manufacture nearly all of the microprocessors and memory chips worldwide.

The presentation ceremony took place in Tokyo April 24, 2013.  The Emperor of Japan attended along with Japan’s prime minister, speaker of the House of Representatives, president of House of Councilors and chief justice of the Supreme Court. Foreign ambassadors to Japan also attended with more than 900 distinguished guests, including eminent academics, researchers and representatives of political, business and press circles.

Willson shared the prize with his colleague and friend Jean M.J. Fréchet, who is vice president for research and professor of chemical science at King Abdullah University in Saudi Arabia.

Fréchet and Willson began working together at the IBM San Jose Research Center in 1979, when Fréchet was a visiting scientist on a sabbatical leave from the University of Ottawa and Willson was a manager at the San Jose center.

At the time, semiconductor manufacturers were approaching the limits of the existing lithography processes and resist materials. Together with the late Hiroshi Ito, Fréchet and Willson invented chemically amplified resists that helped the fabrication of even smaller microstructures. These materials are now used to manufacture nearly all of the microprocessors and memory chips that are the heart of personal computers, mobile phones and many other electronic devices.

Willson earned his B.S. in chemistry at Berkeley in 1962, and completed his doctorate in organic chemistry in 1973. He joined the UT Austin faculty in 1993, where he holds appointments in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and in the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering.

About the Japan Prize

The Japan Prize is a prestigious international award presented to individuals whose original and outstanding achievements are not only scientifically impressive, but have also served to promote peace and prosperity for all mankind. The Prize is awarded by the Japan Prize Foundation. Since its inception in 1985, the Foundation has awarded 74 people from 13 countries.

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