WASHINGTON, Dec. 8, 2010 — Bassam Z. Shakhashiri, Ph.D., a chemistry professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has been elected president of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society. He will serve as president-elect beginning Jan. 1, 2011, and become ACS president on Jan. 1, 2012.
“The ACS president is the most visible advocate for the chemical sciences,” said Shakhashiri. “It is through chemistry research and education that we can make major contributions to improve the quality of life in America and to advance the human condition around the globe. Chemical research and technology can provide clean water and nutritious food, meet energy demands, eradicate disease, reduce poverty and help lead to sustainable development everywhere.”
Shakhashiri’s priorities also include assuring support for research and education, promoting green chemistry, helping the public understand the science of climate change, addressing employment issues and fostering international cooperation and collaboration in research and education.
Shakhashiri joined ACS in 1962, and has won many honors, including the ACS Chemical Education Award in 1986 and the Helen M. Free Award for Public Outreach in 2005, for “lifelong accomplishments and for explaining and demonstrating science with charisma and passion.” In 2002 he received the American Association for the Advancement of Science Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology, “for his tireless efforts to communicate science to the general public, and especially children.” In 2007 he received the National Science Board Public Service Award and was cited for “extraordinary contributions to promote science literacy and cultivate the intellectual and emotional links between science and the arts for the public.” Shakhashiri has given more than 1,300 invited lectures and presentations in North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, the Middle East and South America.
He received his A.B. from Boston University in 1960, his M.Sc. from the University of Maryland in 1965 and his Ph.D. in 1968. Shakhashiri is the first holder of the William T. Evjue Distinguished Chair for the Wisconsin Idea at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he has been a professor since 1970. In 1983, he was the founding director of the Institute for Chemical Education, and from 1984 to 1990, served as an assistant director of the National Science Foundation (NSF). There he presided over rebuilding and re-launching NSF efforts in science and engineering education, after they had been essentially eliminated in the early 1980’s. In 2001, he founded the Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy, with the goal of promoting literacy in science, mathematics and technology among the general public and to attract future generations to careers in research, teaching and public service.