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03/27/2011 23:00:00

Nobel Laureate Ahmed Zewail to be Caltech Commencement Speaker

PASADENA, Calif.—Renowned chemist and Nobel laureate Ahmed Zewail, Linus Pauling Professor of Chemistry and professor of physics at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), will be the speaker for Caltech's 117th annual commencement ceremony, which will take place at 10 a.m. on June 10 of this year.

"Professor Zewail is an esteemed scientist and statesman," says Caltech president Jean-Lou Chameau. "Our graduates will benefit greatly from his wisdom as they prepare to enter a world where scientists and engineers are increasingly called upon to provide leadership throughout the civic arena."

Zewail received the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his groundbreaking research that established the field of femtochemistry by enabling chemical reactions to be studied in real time, on a scale of one quadrillionth of a second. More recently, he and his group have developed four-dimensional electron microscopy for direct imaging of matter in 3-D and in time, with applications spanning physical and biological sciences.

In 2009, Zewail was appointed to President Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. That same year, he was named U.S. Science Envoy to the Middle East as part of a program created by the State Department to foster science and technology collaborations between the United States and nations throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and South and Southeast Asia. Since the January 25th revolution in Egypt, he has played a critical role in his home country’s development and transition to a democratic state.

Zewail has a long-standing interest in global affairs, particularly as they relate to science, education, and world peace. His commentaries on these global issues have appeared in the International Herald Tribune, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal, among other publications. He has written more than 500 articles and books and has given public addresses all over the world.

The Caltech professor's numerous honors include the Albert Einstein World Award of Science, the Benjamin Franklin Medal, the Robert A. Welch Award in Chemistry, the Leonardo da Vinci Award, the Wolf Prize, and the King Faisal International Prize. He was awarded the Grand Collar of the Order of the Nile, Egypt's highest state honor, and was featured on postage stamps issued to honor his contributions to science and humanity. He holds honorary degrees from 40 universities around the world and is an elected member of many professional academies and societies, including the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the Royal Society of London, and the Swedish, Russian, Chinese, and French Academies.

Zewail completed his early education in Egypt, receiving his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in chemistry from Alexandria University. He obtained a PhD in chemical physics from the University of Pennsylvania and, after a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley, joined the faculty at Caltech in 1976.

Caltech's 2010 commencement speaker was NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.

Written by Kathy Svitil