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University of Wisconsin Professor
Awarded Public Understanding Award
For his tireless efforts to communicate the joy of science to the public, and especially to children, popular University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor Bassam Z. Shakhashiri has been named to receive the highly coveted 2002 AAAS Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology.
Shakhashiridescribed as the "reigning dean of lecture demonstrations in a 1995 Encyclopedia Britannica referenceserves as the University of Wisconsin's William T. Evjue Distinguished Chair for the Wisconsin Idea.
His decades-long efforts to reach a broad cross-section of the general public, students, educators, and policymakers, primarily through his "Science is Fun!" activities, was lauded as exemplary by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The AAAS is the world's largest general scientific organization, which publishes the weekly journal, Science.
Perhaps best known for his annual holiday lecture, "Once Upon a Christmas Cheery, in the Lab of Shakhashiri," his lively, accessible communication style has prompted widespread television pickup of his messages: The 30-year tradition is now broadcast on PBS and cable stations throughout the United States and Canada.
Shakhashiri's 33rd annual holiday lecture will take place Dec. 7-8. While the free tickets to these presentations have already been distributed, the performances will be re-broadcast on selected PBS-affiliated stations nationwide. (Check local listings for television show times. In Wisconsin, for example, the shows will air on Wisconsin Public Television on Wednesday, Dec. 25, at 4 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 29, at 8 a.m.).
Shakhashiri also is routinely called upon to provide similar presentations for institutions such as the Boston Museum of Science, the Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution, and the National Academy of Sciences.
Poised before a row of bubbling, colorful beakers, Shakhashiri presents dozens of shows each year to general audiences in a wide range of settingsfrom shopping malls and churches to retirement homes and civic group meetings. He has explained science and technology at international, national, regional and local science fairs, to state academies of sciences, at dedications of new science buildings, and on the occasion of special anniversaries at National Laboratories, colleges and universities.
Lauded for Activities at NSF
Shakhashiri is also credited for rebuilding and expanding key programs and funding activities for science education at the National Science Foundation were he was the assistant director for science and engineering education from 1984 to 1990.
Further, Shakhashiri regularly presents at events sponsored by professional societies. In particular, he has organized the Science is Fun! Symposium at the AAAS Annual Meeting for the past 15 years, and has also participated in the association's Public Science Day activities and other venues. His touchstone work for educators is titled, Chemical Demonstrations: A Handbook for Teachers of Chemistry. Other accomplishments have included the development of a permanent interactive chemistry exhibit at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, which was the first of its kind in the United States when it was unveiled in 1982.
He maintains a Science is Fun! web site, http://wwww.scifun.org, dedicated to sharing the joy of science with students, teachers, parents, and the general public.
The AAAS Award for Public Understanding of Science & Technology, established in 1987, recognizes scientists and engineers who make outstanding contributions to the "popularization of science." A monetary prize of $5,000, a commemorative plaque and other honors are bestowed upon winners of the AAAS award. For more background on the award, please see http://www.aaas.org/about/awards/Public.shtml.
3 December 2002