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Ahmed H. Zewail Develops Technique to study atoms

With his new technique to study atoms, Ahmed H Zewail became the third ethnic Egyptian to receive the Nobel Prize.


Chemist Ahmed H. Zewail was born February 26, 1946 in Damanhur, Egypt. He is the Linus Pauling Chair Professor Chemistry and Professor of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. Ahmed started in a tuition-free state school.

He received a Bachelor's degree and MS degree from the University of Alexandria before moving from Egypt to the United States to complete his PhD at the University of Pennsylvania with advisor Robin Hochstrasser. At the university, Ahmed completed his Ph.D. and they had their first child. It was time to move on, and this is what brought them to Berkeley. He completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley with advisor Charles B. Harris.

After some post doctorate work at UC-Berkeley, he was awarded a faculty appointment at Caltech in 1976, where he has remained since, and in 1990, he was made the first Linus Pauling Chair in Chemical Physics. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1982.

Zewail has been nominated and participated in President Barack Obama's Presidential Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), an advisory group of the nation's leading scientists and engineers to advise the President and Vice President and formulate policy in the areas of science, technology, and innovation.

Develops Rapid Laser Technique

Zewail's has pioneered femtochemistry which is the study of chemical reactions across femtoseconds. Using a rapid ultrafast laser technique consists of ultra-short laser flashes which is a technique to allow the description of reactions on very short time scales - short enough to analyse transition states in selected chemical reactions.

He named the procedure as femtochemistry because it caught the connection between the time scale and the chemistry. Ahmed's discovery was a relatively recent one. With this procedure, he opened up the world of atoms and molecules. This procedure helped scientists in preventing diseases and death in both adults and children.

In 1999, Zewail became the third ethnic Egyptian to receive the Nobel Prize. He received other international awards which include the Wolf Prize in Chemistry in 1993 by the Wolf Foundation, the Tolman Medal in 1997, the Robert A. Welch Award in 1997, the Priestley Medal from the American Chemical Society and Davy Medal from the Royal Society in 2011. In 1999, he received Egypt's highest state honour, the Grand Collar of the Nile.

Zewail was awarded an honorary doctorate by Lund University in Sweden in May 2003 and is also a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Cambridge University awarded him an honorary Doctor of Science in 2006. In May 2008, Zewail received an honorary doctorate from Complutense University of Madrid. In February, 2009, Zewail was awarded an honorary doctorate in arts and sciences by the University of Jordan. In May 2010, he received a Doctor of Humane Letters from South-western University.

Tags :     Rapid Laser Technique     femtochemistry    


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