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Commencement Speaker - 2011

Ahmed Zewail

Ahmed H. Zewail, Caltech’s Linus Pauling Professor of Chemistry and professor of physics, received the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. The honor came in recognition of his groundbreaking research that established the field of femtochemistry by enabling chemical reactions to be studied in real time, on a scale of one quadrillionth of a second. More recently, the renowned chemist and his group have developed four-dimensional electron microscopy for direct imaging of matter in 3-D and in time, with applications spanning physical and biological sciences. 

In 2009, Zewail was appointed to President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. That same year, he was named the first U.S. Science Envoy to the Middle East as part of a program created by the State Department to foster science and technology collaborations between the United States and nations throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and South and Southeast Asia. Since the revolution in Egypt in early 2011, he has played an active role in his home country’s transition to a democratic state. 

Zewail has long been a statesman and active participant in global affairs, particularly as they relate to science, education, and world peace. His commentaries on these global issues have appeared in the International Herald Tribune, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Financial Times, among other publications. He has written more than 500 articles and books and has given public addresses all over the world. 

Hes from 40 universities around the world and is an elected member of many professional academies and societies, including the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the Royal Society of London, and the Swedish, Russian, Chinese, and French Academies.

Zewail completed his early education in Egypt, receiving his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in chemistry from Alexandria University. He obtained a Ph.D. in chemical physics from the University of Pennsylvania and, after a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley, joined the faculty at Caltech in 1976, and was granted tenure in 1978.