Grainger Engineering faculty receive Presidential Medallion

8/23/2021 Chelsea Hamilton

Presidential Medallions given to leaders behind COVID-19 SHIELD efforts.

Written by Chelsea Hamilton

URBANA, Ill. – University of Illinois President Tim Killeen honored 30 key leaders of the system’s COVID-19 response with the Presidential Medallion, the highest honor that the system president can bestow. Those honored included five faculty from The Grainger College of Engineering – Harley T. Johnson, associate dean for research and professor in the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering, Nigel Goldenfeld, Swanlund Endowed Chair and Center for Advanced Study Professor of Physics, Sergei Maslov, professor of bioengineering and physics and Bliss Faculty Scholar, John Paul, professor of Innovation, Leadership and Engineering Entrepreneurship and chief instigator of the Rokwire initiative, and Abigail Wooldridge, assistant professor in the Department of Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering.

Harley T. Johnson, Abigail Wooldridge, and Sergei Maslov
From left, Harley T. Johnson, associate dean for research and professor in the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering, Abigail Wooldridge, assistant professor in the Department of Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering, and Sergei Maslov, professor of bioengineering and physics and Bliss Faculty Scholar. 


In a ceremony attended by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker on August 23, Killeen honored Goldenfled, Maslov, Paul and 19 other University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign leaders behind the development of the SHIELD test-and-trace system and subsequent organizations created to expand use beyond the system’s universities. Also honored were the leaders of clinical trials for vaccines at the University of Illinois Chicago and a mass-vaccination effort at UIC that has inoculated hospital staff and patients, students, faculty and members of the public. On August 27, Killeen honored Johnson and Wooldridge for their key roles in the development of a prototype laboratory to process COVID-19 tests as part of the SHIELD test-and-trace system developed at UIUC and mobile labs now deployed around the country by Shield T3, a system-related organization created to provide the tests outside Illinois.

“I have never been more proud than I am today to recognize these colleagues and their leadership,” said Killeen, awarding the first Presidential Medallions in his six years as president. "Their ingenuity and dedication and the hard work of thousands of their colleagues across the U of I System have saved lives on our campuses, in the surrounding communities and well beyond. Their efforts have demonstrated in real time what the U of I System means to the people of Illinois and ensured that our response to the pandemic has been unlike that of any university system in the world. These initiatives are reflective of the power of the U of I System as a real force for innovation, positive change and the public good.

Pritzker praised those honored Monday for their service to the state of Illinois and its residents.

“In our fight against COVID-19, the efforts of the University of Illinois System have been a real asset to millions of Illinoisans,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said. “That begins with the successful effort last year to keep campuses open to the more than 90,000 students enrolled at U of I System universities. But it extends to the tens of thousands of people who found access to life-saving vaccines in the Chicago area, students at universities and community colleges who have been protected by the SHIELD test and this fall to students at more than 1,000 K-12 schools around the state who will be protected by access to SHIELD. I am deeply grateful to the leaders being honored here today and to the thousands of others who have been part of the U of I System's aggressive and ongoing response to the pandemic.”

Harley Johnson: Serves as the associate director of research for Grainger College of Engineering and a professor and Kritzer Faculty Scholar in the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering. He also holds a courtesy appointment as a Materials Science and Engineering professor and affiliate appointments in the Materials Research Lab and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. Additional positions include director and principal investigator of the "DIGI-MAT" NSF NRT Ph.D. Research Traineeship in Materials and Data Science. Past awards include SES Fellow, Fulbright U.S. Scholar and ASME Fellow.

Nigel Goldenfeld: Holds a Center for Advanced Study Professorship and a Swanlund Endowed Chair at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, with appointments in the Department of Physics and the Institute for Genomic Biology. He is a member of the Condensed Matter Theory group in the Department of Physics, leads the Biocomplexity Theme at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology and directs the NASA Astrobiology Institute for Universal Biology. Past awards include an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow, University Scholar of the University of Illinois, recipient of the Xerox Award for Research and the A. Nordsieck Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching.

Sergei Maslov: A Bliss Faculty Scholar with appointments in the Department of Bioengineering, Department of Physics, Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology and National Center for Supercomputing Applications. He also holds a joint appointment at Argonne National Laboratory, Computing, Environment and Life Sciences directorate. Past awards include American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering fellow.

John Paul (BSEE ’76): Clinical professor of Innovation, Leadership, and Engineering Entrepreneurship at the Technology Entrepreneur Center and founder of VenueNext. 

Abigail Wooldridge: Assistant professor, Department of Biomedical and Translational Sciences, Carle Illinois College of Medicine. Also holds courtesy appointments at Computer Science, School of Information Sciences, Kinesiology and Community Health, and serves as an affiliate faculty member at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. 

The Presidential Medallion is given to recognize individuals who support and bring distinction to the U of I system, enhancing and accelerating its ability to deliver on its mission in profound ways. The award is bestowed solely at the discretion of the president. View the complete list of 2021 honorees

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This story was published August 23, 2021.