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June 17th, 2011
When you check an image on your smart phone, or enjoy the evolving clarity of modern television screens, you can thank Ching Tang, Professor of chemical engineering at the University of Rochester— and patron saint of nearsighted sports-bar customers worldwide. He invented the organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology that is so vital to the stunning images we take for granted everyday. On May 29, standing solemnly in the well of the Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem, Ching Tang shared the $100,000 Wolf Prize with two other scientists in the field of chemistry. The annual prize, which honored the researchers for contributions to the synthesis and understanding of organic materials, was awarded by the Wolf Foundation. It is widely considered only second in prestige to the Nobel Prize. When handicapping the Noble, winners are always considered serious contenders with 1-in-3 odds—Vegas oddsmakers call it the Wolf Bump. Finally back in the US, Professor Tang admitted the thrill he gets inventing something that billions of people use every day, telling a local Rochester TV reporter (click to see report), "The fact that I can hold it my hand to call my wife, daughter, son. It's fun, to be able to use your own invention." (Although most parents regret that he never had the foresight to include a remote kill switch).