University of Wisconsin professor wins ACS’ Grady-Stack award for science communication

WASHINGTON, Aug. 31, 2017 — Bassam Z. Shakhashiri, Ph.D., a chemistry professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and director of the Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy, is the 2018 recipient of the American Chemical Society’s (ACS’) James T. Grady-James H. Stack Award for Interpreting Chemistry for the Public.

Known as the “dean of American chemistry lecture demonstrators,” Shakhashiri has given more than 1,500 invited public presentations worldwide. His entertaining, science-oriented demonstrations have attracted packed audiences at the National Academy of Sciences, the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum and in the halls of Congress. Shakhashiri also has been featured in newspapers and magazines, as well as on radio and television. Some examples include NBC Nightly News, National Public Radio, CNN, the Larry King Show, the New York Times, the Washington Post and Newsweek.

With the help of fire, dry ice, gases and solutions, Shakhashiri’s demonstrations help his audiences grasp concepts as diverse as sublimation, chemical reactions, catalysis and chemiluminescence. But the biggest lesson he shares is seen in big letters on the buttons he gives out: “Science is Fun.”

Shakhashiri, a former president of ACS, earned his bachelor’s degree at Boston University, and his master’s degree and Ph.D. at the University of Maryland. He has been at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for 47 years.

The Grady-Stack Award is named for James T. Grady and James H. Stack, two former managers of the ACS News Service. Established in 1955, the award recognizes and stimulates outstanding presentations that promote the public’s understanding of chemistry, chemical engineering and related fields. Awardees receive $5,000, a gold medallion and a bronze replica. Shakhashiri will receive his gold medallion next August at ACS’ 256th National Meeting & Exposition in Boston.  

The American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society, is a not-for-profit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. ACS is a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. ACS does not conduct research, but publishes and publicizes peer-reviewed scientific studies. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

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Bassam Shakhashiri, Ph.D.
Credit: American Chemical Society/Peter Cutts
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