Mario J. Molina, Ph.D., a pioneer and one of the leading scientists in the world dedicated to atmospheric chemistry, has a passion for teaching young generations about science.
“When children work on scientific experiments, we guide them, but they have a lot of fun and best of all many of them end up liking science,” said the University of California, San Diego professor, who on May 2 was recognized by the California Latino Legislative Caucus during their 15th annual Latino Spirit Awards in Sacramento.
Molina received the Achievement in Science Award.
“I feel very proud, it’s very satisfying to be recognized. I feel very proud of the things that I have accomplished in respect to education, especially for college students but also with younger children and teaching them about science,” he said.
Molina was co-author of the 1974 original article predicting the depletion of the ozone layer as a direct consequence of the emissions of certain industrial gases, chlorofluorocarbons, earning him and Frank Sherwood Rowland the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
His research and publications on the subject led to the United Nations Montreal Protocol, the first international treaty designed to reduce the production and consumption of ozone depleting substances in order to reduce their abundance in the atmosphere and protect the earth’s fragile ozone Layer.
Molina is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine in the United States since April 2011 and is one of the 21 scientists that serve on President Barack Obama’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology.
“It’s a very interesting group, we have to work hard in various aspects of science, from cyber security to medical investigations, such as cancer, and problems with climate change — only a few of us work in that field — but we all collaborate. Fortunately we have had a very positive interaction with President Obama in such a way that some of the big decisions he has made publicly to benefit the United States, have been originated in discussions we’ve had with him,” Molina said.
He is a distinguished member of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the National College of México, Mexican Academy of Science and the Mexican Academy of Engineering, among others, and holds over 40 honorary degrees from all over the world. Currently, he is president of the Mario Molina Center in his native México City. Besides his work at UC San Diego he has a joint appointment in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, one of the leading research institutions on climate change.
He has a message a for those who don’t believe climate change exists.
“It’s due to ignorance. Many believe that political decisions or family decisions have to be made using astrology, that is a mistake. Astrology doesn’t know about those things,” he said with a laugh. “It is an obsolete and ignorant idea. The scientific community is well established and knows that climate is changing due to society’s activities, there is no doubt about that.”
Molina is the only one in his family who followed a career in science. Most of his siblings are lawyers and doctors.
“I’m the only one, even my son is a doctor — he studied at Harvard University. I guess I’m the black sheep in the family,” Molina said with a chuckle.
Other Latino Spirit Award honorees included Pepe Aguilar (Arts & Entertainment), Samantha Bricio (Athletics), Esteban Hernández (Performing Arts), Mickey Ibarra (Public Service), Marco Lizárraga (Community Empowerment), Kamala López (Advocacy & Entertainment), José Ramírez (Athletics), Bárbara Torres (Public Service)and Porto’s Bakery & Café (Business & Philanthropy.