Bassam Z. Shakhashiri

2005 Helen M. Free Award Winner

Bassam Z. Shakhashiri, Ph.D, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is the 2005 Helen M. Free Award for Public Outreach recipient. Shakhashiri is cited for his lifelong accomplishments and for explaining and demonstrating science with charisma and passion. He is well known internationally for his effective leadership in promoting excellence in science education at all levels and for his development and use of demonstrations in the teaching of chemistry in classrooms as well as in less formal settings such as museums, convention centers, shopping malls and retirement homes. The Encyclopedia Britannica cites Shakhashiri as the “dean of lecture demonstrators in America.”

His scholarly publications, including the multi-volume series, Chemical Demonstrations: A Handbook for Teachers of Chemistry, are models of learning and instruction that have been translated into several languages. Professor Shakhashiri has given over 1100 invited lectures and presentations in North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, the Middle East, and South America. He is known to the public at-large in the USA for his annual program, “Once upon a Christmas Cheery in the Lab of Shakhashiri,” which has been seen on PBS and on cable television stations throughout the country. Professor Shakhashiri has been featured in newspapers, magazines, national and local radio and television, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, Newsweek, Time, the German-language Business Week, NBC Nightly News, National Public Radio, CNN, and the Larry King Show. He appears as a regular guest on the Ideas Network of Wisconsin Public Radio.

Dr. Shakhashiri received his B. A. degree from Boston University, his M. Sc. degree and Ph.D from the University of Maryland. He is the first holder of the William T. Evjue Distinguished Chair for the Wisconsin Idea. He is the recipient of seven honorary doctoral degrees.

In 1977, Professor Shakhashiri was the founding chair of the University of Wisconsin System Undergraduate Teaching Improvement Council. In 1983 he founded the Institute for Chemical Education (ICE) and served as its first director. His work with ICE inspired the establishment of the Center for Biology Education, the Merck Institute for Science Education, the Miami University (of Ohio) Center for Chemical Education, among others. From 1984 to 1990 Professor Shakhashiri served as Assistant Director of the National Science Foundation for Science and Engineering Education. Professor Shakhashiri is a consultant to government agencies, industry, and private foundations on matters related to education at all levels. He currently directs the Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy and its various programs including Science in the City; Science, the Arts, and the Humanities; Women in Science; the Conversations in Science Series; and SCIENCE IS FUN!