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For President-Elect: Bassam Z. Shakhashiri

by Bassam Z. Shakhashiri
September 6, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 36


Bassam Z. Shakhashiri

Wisconsin Section. University of Wisconsin, Madison

Academic record: Boston University, A.B., 1960; University of Maryland, M.Sc., 1965, Ph.D.,1968

Honors: ACS Fellow, 2010; ACS Helen M. Free Award for Public Outreach, 2005; Lifetime Honorary Membership, ACS Northeastern Section, 2001; ACS Award in Chemical Education, 1986; James Flack Norris Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Teaching of Chemistry, ACS Northeastern Section, 1983; University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Inaugural Emerson Science Advocacy Medal, 2008; National Science Board Public Service Award, 2007; Chemical Pioneer Award, American Institute of Chemists, 2005; fellow, Wisconsin Academy of Science, Arts & Letters, 2005; Alpha Chi Sigma Hall of Fame, 2004; fellow, New York Academy of Sciences, 2002; American Association for the Advancement of Science Award for the Public Understanding of Science & Technology, 2003; Dec. 12 was declared by Madison Mayor Susan J. M. Bauman as “Bassam Z. Shakhashiri Day” to mark the 30th anniversary of the Christmas Lecture, 1999; first holder of the William T. Evjue Distinguished Chair for the Wisconsin Idea, 2001; cited as the “reigning dean of lecture demonstrators” in Encyclopedia Britannica's “1995 Yearbook of Science and the Future”; honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, Lebanese American University, Lebanon, 2009; honorary degree of Doctor of Education, University of South Carolina, 2007; honorary degree of Doctor of Science, Grand Valley State University, Michigan, 1993; honorary degree of Doctor of Science, University of Colorado, 1992; honorary degree of Doctor of Science, Ripon College, Wisconsin, 1991; honorary member, Alabama Academy of Science, 1990; honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, Illinois State University, 1988; honorary degree of Doctor of Public Service, George Washington University, 1988; Boston University General Alumni Association Award for Distinguished Public Service to the Profession, 1987; honorary member, South Carolina Academy of Science, 1987; fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1986; Manufacturing Chemists Association Catalyst Award, 1979; William Kiekhofer Distinguished Teaching Award, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1977

Professional positions (for past 10 years): University of Wisconsin, Madison, professor, 1970 to date

Service in ACS national offices: International Activities Committee, 2008–10; Society Committee on Education, 1981–84, consultant, 2007–09; Journal of Chemical Education, Division of Chemical Education Board of Publications, 1980–82; Task Force on the Future of Chemical Education, 1981–84; ACS awards canvassing and selection committees

Service in ACS offices:Member of ACS since 1962. Division of Chemical Education: chair, 1981; chair-elect, 1980. Wisconsin Section: chair, 1981; chair-elect, 1980

Member: American Association for the Advancement of Science, National Science Teachers Association, Sigma Xi; Alpha Chi Sigma, Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha Phi Omega. ACS Divisions: Inorganic Chemistry, Chemical Education

Related activities: National Science Foundation, assistant director for science and engineering education, 1984–90; consultant to federal, state, and local agencies as well as chemical industry, private foundations, professional, civic, and religious organizations; more than 1,300 invited lectures and presentations in North and South America, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Australia; speaker at various ACS presidential sessions since 1984; numerous named lectureships; featured speaker at dedication of new science buildings at colleges, universities, and science centers; commencement and honors convocations speaker; The Scientist, Editorial Advisory Board, 1997–2004; Merck Institute for Science Education, National Advisory Board, 1993–2001; Teach for America, Science & Mathematics Initiative, 1994–2001; University of Wisconsin, Madison’s Institute for Chemical Education, founding director, 1983; Journal of College Science Teaching, Board of Editors, 1978–81; University of Wisconsin System Undergraduate Teaching Improvement Council, founding chair, 1977

Shakhashiri’s Statement


I seek your vote and your help so we can together sustain ACS as the world’s leading scientific organization. I am ready, willing, and able to accept the challenges and responsibilities of the presidency of ACS.

ACS is a membership organization. Our chemical society must continue to nurture its members and to advance the professional status of chemists everywhere. I want members to flourish scientifically and economically. When the chemical industry declines, so will our jobs. When our members face professional challenges—especially unemployment—we have a responsibility to help.

ACS must continue to work for the betterment of the entire chemistry enterprise: academia, industry, and government. ACS has great resilience and the capacity to adapt its programs and services to the rapidly changing world of science and technology. Change requires leadership with vision, focus, enthusiasm, care, and respect.

Chemistry and society. We live in the most advanced scientific and technological society in history. New discoveries have led to improvements and benefits in our daily lives but also to new societal problems. ACS and its members can make major contributions to improve the quality of life in the U.S. and to advance the human condition around the globe. Chemistry is the key to eradicating disease and reducing poverty. Our research and our technology can provide clean water and nutritious food, meet energy demands, and help lead to sustainable development everywhere. And, just as important, chemists can help society develop the will to improve the quality of life on the planet.

Chemistry brings a wide range of goods and functions to everyone and thus is vital to our democracy. Science literacy is necessary for the democratic process to work. By science literacy, I mean an appreciation of science, an understanding of the benefits of technology, and the potential rewards and risks associated with advances in both. I also mean a recognition of what science is capable of achieving and what it cannot accomplish.

Science literacy enlightens and enables people to make informed choices; to be skeptical; to reject shams, quackery, and unproven conjecture; and to avoid being bamboozled into making foolish decisions where matters of science and technology are concerned. Science literacy is for everyone: chemists, artists, humanists, professionals, the general public, youth, and adults alike. The level of science literacy in any society is a measure of what it values and its resolve to put these values into practice.

Throughout my career I have promoted chemistry both as the central science and as the familiar science. The familiarity of chemistry has yet to be fully exploited in reaching all segments of society. We must increase awareness of chemicals, their transformations, and how their wise use benefits our health, safety, and environment. ACS must expand its role as a leader of all scientific groups in communicating the value of science and technology to the public at large as well as to the decisionmakers in government and the private sector.

The ACS president is the most visible advocate for the chemical sciences. I want to devote my presidency to showcasing chemistry at its best in addressing significant societal concerns. I have the experience of thinking about and acting on these important aspects of chemistry. During my six years as assistant director at the National Science Foundation, our record was second to none in advocating new program opportunities for research and education and in securing the necessary funds from the White House and from Congress.

What’s important? ACS is poised to select and pursue a bold agenda focusing on what it does best for its members and for society. As ACS president, I will work with you to accomplish the following:

  • Maintain the preeminence of ACS
  • Strengthen ACS core functions through its publications, meetings, divisions, and sections
  • Focus on employment and workforce needs
  • Enhance the quality and supply of teachers
  • Increase public and private support for research and education
  • Promote green chemistry and sustainable development
  • Address national security issues, including foreign scientist visas
  • Foster international cooperation and collaboration in research and education
  • Improve scientific communication within and among various cultures

The future of ACS depends on effective leadership and sustained member support. I will serve ACS as an open and uniting leader. I ask for your vote so that together we can do what is best for ACS, for science, and for society. Please vote and urge others to vote. For more information, visit online.


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