• Ahmed Zewail

Ahmed Zewail, the first Arab to win a Nobel Prize in a scientific field, will give the 2010 commencement address at Southwestern University. The ceremony will be held Saturday, May 8, at 2 p.m. in the Corbin J. Robertson Center.

Zewail is the Linus Pauling professor of chemistry and professor of physics at the California Institute of Technology.

A native of Egypt, Zewail received his bachelor’s degree and his master’s degree in chemistry from Alexandria University in Egypt. He earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley before joining the Caltech faculty in 1976.

Zewail was awarded the 1999 Nobel Prize in chemistry for pioneering the development of a new field known as laser femtochemistry. Using lasers and molecular beams, femtochemistry has made it possible for researchers to see chemical reactions as they happen in real time. Femtochemistry has had an impact on chemical, biological and medical research all over the world, and is someday expected to yield practical results by allowing improved control of chemical processes used in manufacturing and drug design.

Since winning the Nobel Prize, Zewail has focused his research on the development of another field, 4D electron microscopy, the direct visualization of materials and biological behavior in the familiar three dimensions of space plus time. He currently serves as director of the multidisciplinary Physical Biology Center for Ultrafast Science and Technology at Caltech.

Zewail has received numerous awards for his work, including the 2009 Othmer Gold Medal, the 2006 Albert Einstein World Award of Science, the 1998 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Chemistry, the 1997 Welch Award in Chemistry, the 1993 Wolf Foundation Prize in Chemistry, the 1992 Carl Zeiss Research Award and the 1989 King Faisal International Prize in Science.

He has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society of London, the French Academy of Sciences, the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed him to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. He also serves as one of three U.S. science envoys to the Middle East.

Zewail has been awarded honorary degrees from 40 universities, including Oxford, Cambridge and the University of Pennsylvania.

Zewail’s life is detailed in an autobiography titled Voyage through Time: Walks of Life to the Nobel Prize.

In addition to his scientific work, Zewail is known for his work to help developing nations through science and technology and for his efforts to put forward peaceful solutions to complex world problems. He is one of nine Nobel Prize winners featured in the 2006 film “Nobelity.”

Zewail’s daughter, Maha Zewail-Foote, is an associate professor of chemistry at Southwestern.

“It is a great honor to have such a distinguished and world-renown scientist as our commencement speaker,” said Southwestern University President Jake B. Schrum. “It is a special pleasure that his daughter is a much-respected member of our faculty.”

Two hundred and fifty-six graduates are expected to receive degrees at the May 8 ceremony. In an effort to continue Southwestern’s dedication to sustainability, graduates will wear robes that are made from recycled material and are bio-degradable.

For friends and relatives who are unable to attend the ceremony, it will be streamed live on the Internet. For details on how to watch the broadcast, go to       http://southwestern.edu/alumni/graduation/webcast.php

Overflow viewing also will be available in Room 105 of the Olin Building.