Lehigh University
Lehigh University


Jesse Nawrocki '95: Making surgery safer

Jesse Nawrocki '95

Jesse Nawrocki '95, who earned a total of three degrees in materials science and engineering from Lehigh, has received the top award given by Johnson & Johnson, the worldwide manufacturer of health-care products.

Nawrocki, a senior engineer with Ethicon Inc., received a Johnson Medal for inventing a needle coating technology that enables surgeons to close wounds with greater control, flexibility and comfort. Ethicon, a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary in Somerville, N.J., makes needles, sutures and other surgical devices.

The Johnson Medals are named for Gen. Robert Wood Johnson, founder of Johnson & Johnson, who during World War II resigned as brigadier general in charge of the New York Ordnance District to serve as vice chairman of the War Production Board and as chairman of the Smaller War Plants Corp.

The Medals have been given by Johnson & Johnson since 1960 to scientists whose creativity has helped the company develop and market major new products.

Nawrocki is one of six scientists this year, and 219 since 1960, to receive what Johnson & Johnson calls its “most prestigious award.”

"A paradigm-shifting product "

The “MultiPass Needle Coating Technology” that Nawrocki invented is credited by the corporation with generating $100 million in total sales in 2004.

“Jesse’s achievement allows superior wound closure performance while preserving the highly valued characteristics of Ethicon’s specialty-focused needles,” said an article in The 2005 Johnson Medals.

“His invention has afforded surgeons unparalleled control, flexibility and comfort during procedures by allowing far greater numbers of passes through tissue with little diminishment of lubricity.

“Simply put, Jesse’s invention is a paradigm-shifting product in the area of wound closure.”

Nawrocki developed a polymeric coating of polyolefin wax powders that, when added to the medical grade silicone used in standard needle coatings, “dramatically improves the penetration capability of surgical needles,” said the Johnson & Johnson article. This reduces the penetration force required, easing hand fatigue and lowering the likelihood of a needle bending or breaking under pressure.

In short, said the article, “Jesse utilized the combined principles of metallurgy, surface science, and polymer science to solve challenging technical issues and devise a revolutionary coating technology for surgical needles.”

Nawrocki, who has three patents pending, earned a B.S. from Lehigh in 1995, an M.S. in 1999, and a Ph.D. in 2001. He received Johnson & Johnson’s Philip B. Hofmann Research Award in 2004 for his work in MultiPass Needle Coating.

In 2001, “Stress-Relief Cracking of a Ferritic Alloy Steel,” a paper Nawrocki wrote on his Ph.D. research, won the Henry Granjon Award from the International Institute of Welding, one of the top awards given to graduate students in materials science and engineering.

Nawrocki worked with two advisers as a graduate student – Arnold R. Marder, the R.D. Stout Distinguished Professor of materials science and engineering, and John DuPont, associate professor of materials science and engineering.

Posted on Monday, January 16, 2006

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