Helen Murray Free

Helen Murray Free


Helen Murray Free Endowment Lecture

Helen Murray Free graduated with a B.A. in chemistry from The College of Wooster in 1945. Her research in clinical chemistry revolutionized diagnostic testing, particularly the "dip-and-read" glucose tests for diabetics, and she was awarded seven patents for her clinical diagnostic test inventions. From 1987 to 1992, she chaired the American Chemical Society's (ACS) National Chemistry Week Task Force, and in 1993 she served as president of the ACS. She and her husband, Alfred, were inducted into the National Inventor's Hall of Fame in 2000, and in 2010, the ACS designated the development of diagnostic test strips as a National Historic Chemical Landmark. That same year, she was awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation by President Obama. In 2011, Helen was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, NY.

Prof. Bassam Z. Shakhashiri

Fall 2017 Lecturer -

Bassam Z. Shakhashiri

  • Professor of Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • William T. Evjue Distinguished Chair for the Wisconsin Idea
  • Director, Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy
  • 2012 President, American Chemical Society



Thursday, October 26, 2017

Gault Recital Hall, Scheide Music Center

Technical Lecture (11:00 AM) - Science and Society: Our Opportunities and Responsibilities

We live in the most advanced scientific and technological society in history. New discoveries have led to personal and societal enlightenment, to improvements and benefits in our daily lives, but also to new societal problems. Education is the key to societal progress. In one part of his talk, Professor Shakhashiri will discuss the rationale for enhancing the learning experiences of students and will offer specific suggestions for consideration as we all contemplate ways to improve both our technical skills and judgment. We must showcase science at its best in addressing human needs locally and worldwide. We must aim to promote science literacy. Science literacy is necessary for the democratic process to work. By science literacy Dr. Shakhashiri means an appreciation of science, an understanding of the benefits of technology and the potential rewards and risks associated with advances in both, as well as 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, all 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.

Public Lecture (7:30 PM) - Science Is Fun and The Joy of Learning

This public talk will include demonstrations to show how science can be communicated to all segments of our society.  Come learn about combustion, liquids that glow in the dark, polymers, and other spectacular scientific phenomena.  You will sit at the edge of your seat and will see science in action.

Bassam Z. Shakhashiri is professor of chemistry and the first holder of the William T. Evjue Distinguished Chair for the Wisconsin Idea at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.He is well known internationally for his effective leadership in promoting excellence in science education at all levels. He is an advocate for policies to advance knowledge and to use science and technology to serve society. He promotes the exploration and establishment of links between science, arts and the humanities, and the elevation of discourse on significant societal issues related to science, religion, politics, the economy, and ethics.  From 1984-1990 Dr. Shakhashiri served as Assistant Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) for Science and Engineering Education. As NSF chief education officer, he presided over the rebuilding of all NSF efforts in science education after they had been essentially eliminated in the early 1980s. His leadership and effectiveness in developing and implementing national programs in science education have helped set the annual NSF education budget at its current level of about $900 million.  In 2012 Professor Shakhashiri served as president of the American Chemical Society, formed the ACS Presidential Commission on Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences, the ACS Climate Science Working Group, and the ACS Global Water Initiative Working Group.  Dr. Shakhashiri is the recipient of over 35 awards, including the 2002 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology, “for his tireless efforts to communicate science to the general public, and especially children.” He is best known to the public at large for his annual program, “Once Upon a Christmas Cheery, In the Lab of Shakhashiri,” seen on PBS stations around the country. The science-oriented entertainment show has played to packed houses around the country. In 2016 he marked the 47th anniversary of presenting this engaging show that promotes science literacy to the general public.

Past Lecturers


Madeleine JacobsMadeleine Jacobs is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Council of Scientific Society Presidents, an organization of presidents, presidents-elect, and recent past presidents of about 60 scientific federations and societies whose combined membership numbers well over 1 million scientists and science educators. Read press release.



Madeleine Jacobs' lectures are available on YouTube.  Select the title to link to the video.
Morning Lecture: Ten Lessons of a Lifetime of Science
Evening Lecture: The Two Cultures, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance


Ned Heindel, H.S. Bunn Chair Professor of Chemistry at Lehigh University and a consultant on drug development for Azevan Pharmaceuticals. Read press release.


Paul Anderson, Retired Senior Vice President of chemical and physical sciences for the DuPont-Merck Pharmaceuticals Company. Read press release.


Susan Solomon, Ellen Swallow Richards Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Climate Science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Read press release.

2012 - Fall

Sam Niedbala, Professor of practice in the Chemistry Department at Lehigh University and CEO of DeTect Biosciences LLC. Read press release.

2012 - Spring

Catherine Hunt, R&D Director of Innovation Sourcing and Sustainable Technologies at The Dow Chemical Company. Read press release.