Polymeric Materials: Science and Engineering Division: Archival Website (through 2017)

2005 ACS Applied Polymer Science Award in Honor of Craig J. Hawker


Craig Jon Hawker, born in January 1964 in Australia is the Winner of the 2005 ACS Award in Applied Polymer Science. Craig’s citation for this award is as follows: “For the creative development of novel polymers with controlled structure and architecture and methods for their use as high performance dielectrics, recording media, and memory chips in the microelectronics industry”.

At the relatively young age of 40 Craig Hawker has the distinction of being the co-inventor of three families of polymers that have been, or are being, implemented into commercial products with the potential to change the face of the microelectronics industry. An additional measure of the impact of this extraordinarily gifted young industrial scientist is found in the latest ISI 10-year tabulation of the 100 most cited scientists in the world for the period 1992-2003 for the entire field of chemistry (http://www.in-cites.com/nobel/nov2002-chemistry-top100).  Craig Hawker is featured prominently in this group that only includes 5 polymer scientists.  With many seminal patents to his name, polymeric materials in commercial products, and a highly innovative research program with huge impact at the forefront of polymer science, it is clear that Craig Hawker is a most deserving winner of this very prestigious award.

Born and raised in Queensland, Craig received his B.Sc. with first class honours from the University of Queensland.  The winner of numerous scholarships and fellowships he then joined the laboratory of Professor Sir A.R. Battersby at the University of Cambridge for his Ph.D. work.  His thesis entitled “Biosynthesis of Vitamin B12 - Model Studies on the Spiro Intermediate” was completed in 1988.  From 1988 to 1990 he was a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Professor J.M.J. Fréchet in the Department of Chemistry at Cornell University where he carried out seminal studies in the field of dendrimer chemistry, a collaboration which continues to this day.  For the next three years, Craig Hawker was a Queen Elizabeth II Research Fellow at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.  After returning briefly to Cornell in 1993 he joined the IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose CA. where he spend twelve exciting and productive years in the stimulating environment of the IBM Almaden Research Center.  The year 2005 will mark a new milestone in Craig Hawker’s career as he has recently accepted the position of Director of the Materials Research Laboratory and Professor in the Departments of Chemistry and Materials at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Craig Hawker’s work at IBM has been remarkable both for its innovative character and its practical bend.  His work on hyperbranched polymers has led to the remarkable new family of low k polymer dielectrics that have enabled a quantum leap in circuit density for microelectronic chips. These polymeric materials with closed shell pores useful to implement copper circuitry in microchip fabrication have generated worldwide interest and form the basis of a new generation of commercial products.  His novel crosslinked polymeric recording layer based on the living radical polymerization chemistry form the foundation of IBM’s newest product for memories based on the “millipede” concept.  Most recently, as was widely announced in the press, IBM has implemented a full development program for flash memory chips based on self-assembling block copolymer templates prepared using Hawker’s living free-radical chemistry.

Craig Hawker’s impact in Applied Polymer Science is based on an extremely creative and solid foundation of fundamental work.  His creativity was apparent from his early work at Cornell, then at the University of Brisbane, leading to seminal contributions in the chemistry of dendrimers and hyperbranched polymers.  At IBM Almaden, Craig developed in 1994, the now widely used unimolecular alkoxyamine initiators for living radical polymerizations.  This work is beautifully reviewed in Chemical Reviews, 101, 3661-3688, 2001. In 1995, he applied this novel chemistry to develop a general approach to the synthesis of star and graft polymers and copolymers with controlled architecture.  This novel design has now been widely duplicated by many other research groups using a variety of living radical polymerization processes. 

Another characteristic of the work of Hawker is his ability to initiate collaborations with a variety of scientists and engineers of different backgrounds in order to draw the most from the materials he invents thereby facilitating their commercial implementation. Collaborating with his friend and IBM colleague J.L. Hedrick, Hawker carried out seminal work on a novel approach to the patternwise modification of surfaces by a novel surface initiated polymerization process now patented by IBM. Another model collaboration, in true partnership with Tom Russell (University of Massachusetts, Amherst), brought together skills in synthesis and polymer physics to produce a remarkable body of work that has earlier been rewarded with the ACS Cooperative Research Award.  Yet another collaboration with chemists at Symyx technologies led to the development of high throughput techniques for the facile and reproducible construction of an enormously versatile array of functional stars.

In addition to his innovative contributions to both applied and fundamental polymer science, Craig has been tireless in his work for the polymer community as a whole. He organized and participated actively in many memorable conferences; he spearheaded a polymer synthesis thrust in a very successful NSF center involving Stanford University and IBM; he participated in outreach programs to introduce polymer science to young students, dazzling them with his presentations of real life applications of polymers. As those of you who have heard Craig Hawker speak at numerous ACS and other conferences can attest, Craig is also a remarkable communicator.  This, coupled to his creative mind, experimental wizardry, and undeniable “people skills” will continue to propel him to the forefront of our discipline.  It is indeed a great pleasure to celebrate the timely and well-deserved selection of Craig Hawker as the winner of this prestigious ACS Award in Applied Polymer Science.