science is fun

“Science is Fun” Advocate Bassam Shakhashiri to Present Helen Murray Free Lectures

A self-described "scientist by training, teacher and public servant by trade, advocate by conviction, optimist by nature" to speak on Oct. 26

18 October, 2017 by Sarah Stanley

WOOSTER, Ohio – Bassam Shakhashiri, professor of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the William T. Evjue Distinguished Chair for the Wisconsin Idea, and director of the Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy, will make a pair of presentations as the speaker of the Helen Murray Free Lectures at The College of Wooster on Thursday, Oct. 26. Both lectures will be held in Gault Recital Hall of Scheide Music Center (525 E. University St.).

The first lecture, “Science and Society: Our Opportunities and Responsibilities,” will begin at 11 a.m. Shakhashiri will discuss the rationale for enhancing the learning experiences of students and will offer specific suggestions for consideration as all scientists contemplate ways to improve both their technical skills and judgment. Two of his goals are to showcase science at its best in addressing human needs locally and worldwide and to promote science literacy.

The second starts at 7:30 p.m., and is titled “Science is Fun and The Joy of Learning.” In this presentation, Shakhashiri will include highly-entertaining demonstrations to show how science can be communicated to all segments of our society. Science in action will include 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.

While a professor of chemistry, Shakhashiri 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. The Encyclopedia Britannica cites him as the “dean of lecture demonstrators in America.”

Shakhashiri, as a matter of fact, is probably best known to the public at large for his annual program, "Once Upon a Christmas Cheery, In the Lab of Shakhashiri," seen on television throughout the country. The shows are Shakhashiri's way of proving that "Science is Fun" (the legend on a t-shirt he dons for the show, as well as the name of his website). By demonstrating how much fun it can be, Shakhashiri, in his role as advocate for science, seeks to impart the joy of discovery that has engaged young minds throughout history. This excitement, he believes in his role as optimist, will lure future generations to careers as researchers, entrepreneurs and teachers on whom the nation's continuing economic health and national security will depend.

In 2012, 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. 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.”

Previously Shakhashiri served as assistant director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) for Science and Engineering Education from 1984-1990. 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.

Helen Murray Free graduated from Wooster in 1945 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. 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 ACS’s 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.

Additional information about the lectures is available by phone (330-263-2418) or email.