Public Service Award
For release on: April 16, 2007
Cheery is the Lab of Shakhashiri - Chemist, Educator, Communicator Receives 2007
National Science Board Public Service Award
Wins praise for communicating science, and as advocate for NSF education programs
Bassam Z. Shakhashiri, a chemistry professor who pioneered new ways to encourage public
understanding of science through his enthusiastic communications and visually exciting chemical
demonstrations, will receive the 2007 National Science Board Public Service Award.
The University of Wisconsin scientist, as a National Science Foundation assistant director
in the late 1980s, also had a strong role in rebuilding education programs at NSF after many were
greatly reduced in the early years of the Reagan Administration.
Shakhashiri will receive the award at a ceremony May 14 at the State Department in
"Dr. Shakhashiri has set himself apart from many scientists by broadly communicating
science in lectures, radio and television, in the classroom and in public events that have
promoted science literacy on a scale wider than most of us have the energy to dream about," said
Steven C. Beering, National Science Board chairman.
Shakhashiri, whom the Encyclopedia Britannica describes as the "dean of lecture
demonstrators in America," has made more than 1,100 lectures and presentations internationally.
He has made numerous appearances on nationwide radio and television, to include his annual PBS
program "Once Upon a Christmas Cheery in the Lab of Shakhashiri." He also has made many public
appearances to promote the connections between the arts and science, and his renowned multi-volume
series of handbooks in chemical demonstrations for teachers is in wide use.
In 1983 Shakhashiri was the founder of the Institute for Chemical Education at the
University of Wisconsin. It is a national center for research and development, teaching and
dissemination of information on chemistry at all educational levels. In the same year, he opened
the first-of-its-kind interactive chemistry exhibit at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry,
which has remained permanently on display there.
Another of Shakhashiri's major projects is his Initiative for Science Literacy. His work
involves showing future musicians, artists, writers, performers and scientists the
interrelationships between forms of inquiry, creativity and personal expression. His work has
helped many students and adult learners cultivate the intellectual and emotional links between
science and the arts, according to several who know of his efforts.
From radio show hosts to physical scientists, all seem to agree that Shakhashiri has been
blessed with a "fearlessness" in reaching audiences, large and small, with his messages of
science literacy and the connections between art and science.
In his six years as the National Science Foundation's Assistant Director for Science and
Engineering Education in the 1980s, Shakhashiri proved, too, to be a fierce advocate for science
NSF's annual budget for education programs dropped from $80 million in fiscal 1980 to $23
million in 1983. Shakhashiri arrived at NSF in 1984 and pressed successfully for rebuilding NSF's
K-12 and informal science education programs. In addition, he aggressively advocated a
resurgence of NSF’s undergraduate education programs at the urging of the National Science Board and
its Neal Report. By the time Shakhashiri left the agency in 1990, NSF's budget for education and
human resources had grown to more than $230 million.
Shakhashiri's individual Public Service Award recognizes his extraordinary contributions to
increase public understanding of science. The Science Board will also recognize CBS's popular
television dramatic series "Numb3rs" and its co-creators, Nick Falacci and Cheryl Heuton,
with a 2007 group award for public service.
Recipients of the Public Service Award are chosen for their contributions in areas such as:
increasing the public's understanding of the scientific process and its communication; contributing
to the development of broad science and engineering policy; promoting the engagement of scientists
and engineers in public outreach; and fostering awareness of science and technology among broad
segments of the population.
The National Science Board initiated the Public Service Award in 1996. The first honorees
were named in 1998. The board is an independent 24-member body of policy advisors to the President
and Congress on matters of science and engineering research and education, and is the oversight
body for the National Science Foundation (NSF), an independent federal agency that supports almost
all areas of fundamental research nationwide.
For more information on Dr. Shakhashiri, see:
For more information on the 2007 Public Service Award group recipients, see:
For more information on the Public Service Awards history and criteria, see:
To print this page, download the pdf:
For more information from the NSF Web Site, see:
# # # # # #
Bill Noxon - (540) 672-6656 Cell: (540) 850-1718 firstname.lastname@example.org
Ann Noonan (703) 292-7000, email@example.com