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Nobel Prize Winner to Deliver ASU Science Lectureship

February 17, 2010

Dr. Ahmed Zewail, 1999 Nobel Prize Winner in Chemistry, will deliver the 34th annual West Texas Medical Associates Distinguished Lectureship in Science Honoring Dr. Roy E. Moon on Thursday, March 11, at Angelo State University.

Zewail’s talk, titled “Time’s Mysteries and Miracles,” will begin at 8 p.m. March 11 in the C.J. Davidson Conference Center inside the ASU Houston Harte University Center, 1910 Rosemont Drive. Prior to the public lecture, Zewail will also meet with ASU students to discuss “Seeing in Four Dimensions” at 2 p.m. Both lectures are open free to the public.

In the late 1980s, Zewail and his research team literally changed the view of the dynamics of matter and created the new discipline of femtoscience, making it possible to observe the movement of individual atoms in a femtosecond (one quadrillionth of a second). His technique may be described as the world’s fastest camera. For comparison, a femtosecond is to one second as the thickness of a piece of paper is to the distance to the Moon.

Zewail’s achievements demonstrated how it is possible to follow atoms and molecules in “slow motion” during a chemical reaction in which chemical bonds are broken and new ones created. Femtochemistry has enabled scientists to understand the underlying mechanisms, explaining why some chemical reactions occur and why others do not, and why reaction rates and yields are dependent on energy. Inspired by Zewail’s pioneering works, scientists throughout the world are studying processes with femtosecond spectroscopy in gases, fluids and solids, on surfaces, in polymers and in biological systems. Applications range from how catalysts function and how molecular electronic devices should be designed, to the most delicate mechanisms of life processes and how the medicines of the future ought to be designed and produced.

Over the past seven years, Zewail has established a new field of research and founded the multi-disciplinary Physical Biology Center for Ultrafast Science and Technology at Caltech. This is a new integrated science of structure and dynamics, with the aim of deciphering the fundamental physics of chemical and biological behavior, from atoms to cells. His new research began following his breakthrough development of 4-D imaging, or visualization, of molecular and cellular systems directly in the four dimensions of space and time. The primary goal of the research is to understand the complexity of materials and biological function.

A native of Egypt, Dr. Ahmed Zewail won the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his pioneering developments that made it possible to observe atoms in motion and the transition states of molecular transformations. Currently the Linus Pauling Professor of Chemistry and a professor of physics at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), he has taught at Caltech since 1976 and was previously an instructor and researcher at Alexandria University in Egypt. He began working with Pauling, a legendary chemist, at about the same time Pauling presented one of the first WTMA lectureships at ASU in 1978.

Zewail received his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees from Alexandria University and his Ph.D. in chemical physics from the University of Pennsylvania. He has also been awarded more than 30 honorary degrees from universities in the U.S., Canada, Europe, the Middle East and the Far East.

The author of 14 books on various aspects of his research, Zewail has also published more than 500 articles with a research family of more than 250 members, most of who are in leading academic, governmental and industrial positions across the globe. His biography, Voyage Through Time – Walks of Life of the Nobel Prize, has been published in 17 languages and editions. He has also delivered more than 300 lectures throughout the world.

In addition to the Nobel Prize, his many honors and awards include the Albert Einstein World Award, Benjamin Franklin Medal, Leonardo da Vinci Award and the Grand Collar of the Nile, Egypt’s highest state honor. He has also been pictured on Egyptian postage stamps. A city square in Alexandria, a high school in Disuq City, Egypt, the Center for Femtoscience Technology in Korea and the School for Linguistics in Bani Sweif, Egypt, have all been named in his honor.

His elected memberships in more than 30 worldwide science societies include the National Academy of Science, American Philosophical Society and American Academy of Achievement, among others, in the U.S. He is also a member of President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

The WTMA Lectureship honors Dr. Roy E. Moon, a longtime San Angelo obstetrician and gynecologist, who died in 1976. He practiced for 28 years with Clinic Hospital Medical Associates, now West Texas Medical Associates. The lectureship was established in 1976 and is underwritten by a grant to ASU from members of WTMA.

Each year, the lectureship brings a scientist of national prominence to ASU for public lectures, colloquia and informal discussions. Zewail will be the 12th Nobel Prize winner to deliver the WTMA lectureship.

The selection committee is chaired by Dr. Grady Price Blount, dean of the ASU College of Sciences, and includes Dr. Crosby Jones, professor of biology; Dr. Toni Sauncy, associate professor of physics; Dr. John Osterhout, head of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department; and WTMA physicians, Dr. Patrick Gibson, Dr. Deborah Hajovsky, Dr. Brian Bradley and Dr. Fazlur Rahman.

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For more information, call the ASU College of Sciences at 942-2024.

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