Ahmed Zewail

Ahmed Zewail
Specialty Femtochemistry
Born Feb. 26, 1946 (age 67)
Damanhour, Egypt
Nationality Egyptian, American

Ahmed Zewail can be considered one of the most well-known scientists to be born in Egypt. His work in femtochemistry was quite revolutionary and innovative. His work in this field was so recognized that he received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his accomplishments.

Zewail’s Early Years

Ahmed Zewail was born on February 26, 1946, in Damanhour, Egypt. He moved to Alexandria at a young age and this is where he grew up. His father worked with bicycles and motorcycles. He was quite adept at assembling them. Perhaps seeing his father work with bikes gave young Zewail a little insight into the basics of mechanical engineering and the sciences. Eventually, his father would go on and become a government official.

Educational Career

Zewail has a long and storied educational background. He completed his bachelor’s degree at the University of Alexandria and later would go on to receive his Master of Science degree from that very same university. Upon the completion of his M.S. degree, he moved to the United States to enroll in a PhD program.

The school he selected to work on his PhD at was the University of Pennsylvania. Upon finishing his PhD, he ventured out to the University of California, Berkeley, and completed a post-doctoral fellowship. In 1982, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States, although he still held ties with his home country of Egypt.

He has been recognized in the Middle East for his global work. The country of Israel had awarded him the Wolf Prize for his work in the sciences. The award was issued in 1993 and it is one of many he has received throughout his lifetime.

Zewail’s Professional Career

In 1976, Zewail moved on from Berkeley to Caltech where he became a member of the faculty. He remains a member of the faculty to this very day. In 1990, he first occupied a chair for the institution in the chemical physics discipline.

Innovative Research Work

Ahmed Zewail 2Chemists can serve many purposes in their profession. The research work performed by Zewail was considered to be enormously trailblazing. The area in which he specialized was that of femtochemistry. Femtochemistry entails the study of chemical reactions that take place via femtoseconds.

An extremely fast laser that employs flashes opens the portals for learning how the reactions actually work. The governing motivations from such a process are being able to analyze the actual state of transition to learn from the events of the chemical reactions that occur.

Zewail based many of his studies on answering questions related to the speed in which the energy in a large molecule is redistributed through atomic motions. His long and laborious work did eventual yield helpful results. Namely, he learned and revealed intriguing information about complex molecular systems.

Awards and Special Recognitions

The greatest award that Ahmed Zewail received was the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He was given the award in 1999. The award was given due to the amazing achievements his life’s work in femtochemistry presented.

Zewail would go on and receive quite a number of other prestigious awards. Among those honors and awards he received were the Franklin Medal in 1998 and the Priestly Medal and the Davy Medal, both in 2011.

To show how strongly his peers think of his work, Ahmed Zewail was nominated for the Presidential Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). Zewail has agreed to join the council and contribute his expertise to it. This council is a very important one in terms of how it aids in formulating US policy in areas related to science and technology. The council serves in a direct advisory capacity to the president and the vice president.

Zewail’s Current Projects

Zewail has become involved with President Barack Obama’s outreach initiative to Muslim groups. A Science Envoy program has been created to help establish cooperative scientific projects between the United States and the Muslim world. Ahmed Zewail is one of the major members of the envoy.

Zewail still works full-time in his profession. He does not seem to be slowing down in any way. In time, he may very well win more awards for even further innovative work.

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