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June 16, 2003
Volume 81, Number 24
CENEAR 81 24 p. 40
ISSN 0009-2347


Hundreds Celebrate El-Sayed’s 70th

LINDA RABER

PHOTOS BY ANNEMARIE POYO
M
ostafa A. El-Sayed’s family, friends, students, and collaborators gathered at Georgia Institute of Technology, in Atlanta, to celebrate his 70th birthday. The event, held May 23–24, consisted of a technical symposium featuring physical chemistry luminaries and a celebratory banquet at which colleagues and students shared their stories and best wishes.

El-Sayed, the 23-year editor-in-chief of the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Physical Chemistry, has been Julius Brown Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry at Georgia Tech since his arrival from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1994. He is also the director of the school’s Laser Dynamics Lab.

According to colleagues and university administrators, El-Sayed’s arrival at the university coincided with and catalyzed a period of dramatic evolution in the School of Chemistry & Biochemistry.

For example, Georgia Tech President G. Wayne Clough told symposium attendees that “Mostafa is a magnet that attracts excellent faculty and students.” The following were among the accomplishments Clough noted:
n Fully half of the current 32 faculty have been hired since 1994. Fourteen of these 16 new faculty were hired as assistant professors.

  • Extramural research funding has increased by 80% despite the relatively young faculty.
  • The number of graduate students has increased by more than 50% and is expected to exceed 200 next fall.

And El-Sayed is still at the top of his game in research. Since his arrival at Georgia Tech, his research interests have expanded to include semiconductor and metallic particles. “He is credited as one of the very first to develop ways to synthesize and reshape nanoparticles of gold, silver, and certain transition metals. He also studies self-assembly characteristics of these nanoparticles, as well as their shape-dependent catalytic properties,” says Z. John Zhang, professor of chemistry at Georgia Tech and coordinator of the celebration’s activities.

The Frontiers of Chemistry Symposium featured technical talks by Nobel Laureate Ahmed H. Zewail, Caltech; George M. Whitesides, Harvard University; Edward I. Solomon, Stanford University; Chad A. Mirkin, Northwestern University; M. Frederick Hawthorne, UCLA; Kenneth B. Eisenthal, Columbia University; and Charles M. Lieber and X. Sunney Xie, Harvard University.

El-Sayed received his B.S. at Ein Shams University, Cairo, in 1953 and his Ph.D. at Florida State University, Tallahassee, in 1959. He has held research associate positions at Harvard, Yale, and California Institute of Technology. He was a chemistry professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, from 1961 to 1994.

El-Sayed has supervised the research of 50 Ph.D. students, 35 postdoctoral fellows, and 20 visiting professors. Many of these friends were on hand at the symposium and banquet. Fully half of the banquet attendees gathered together when the photographer called for those who have studied with El-Sayed to come together for a group photo.

His research has been honored with several recent awards, including the Herty Medal, the Richards Medal, and the Florida Award. Most recently he received the Langmuir Prize, the most prestigious ACS award in physical chemistry. At the local level, he was named Regents’ Professor, the highest rank for University System of Georgia faculty.

At the banquet, Christy Landes, a graduate student in the El-Sayed group, went to the microphone to honor her professor. “You taught me a lot about being a person,” she said. “You’ve shown that science isn’t science unless you share it.”

Accepting the good wishes of his colleagues, El-Sayed remarked: “This is such a great day. If I had known it would be like this, I would have reached 70 years a long time ago!” He then told his wife, Janice, that she is the most important one in his life. “I love you very much, and thank you for everything you have done,” he said.



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