25 No. 5
and information on IUPAC, its fellows, and members organizations
See also www.iupac.org/news
El-Sayed Celebrates 70th Birthday
May 2003, hundreds gathered on the campus of the Georgia Institute
of Technology in Atlanta for Mostafa
El-Sayed's 70th birthday. The symposium in his honor included
a scientific program and a dinner banquet with his whole family
present, including all of his children and grandchildren.
Among the speakers were Ahmed Zewail (California Institute
of Technology), George Whitesides (Harvard University), Edward
Solomon (Stanford University), Chad Mirkin (Northwestern University),
Fred Hawthorne (UCLA), Ken Eisenthal (Columbia University),
Charles Lieber (Harvard University), Sunney Xie (Harvard University),
and Michael Kasha (Florida State University). Also present
(but still achieving notoriety!) was Stephan
Link who recently graduated from the El-Sayed group and
who was one of the recipients of the 2001 IUPAC Prize for
Young Chemists. CI asked Stephan to give us his take on the
event and his experience at Georgia Tech.
of the previously noted speakers not only presented their
current research efforts to a packed lecture room, but also
shared memories of their interactions with Mostafa El-Sayed,
both as the editor in chief of the Journal of Physical
Chemistry and as a scientific collaborator, mentor, and
friend. His dedication to science and teaching was highlighted
at the banquet, during which several guests took the opportunity
to thank him for sharing his passion of science and for being
a great leader both in the physical chemistry community as
well as in the chemistry departments at UCLA and Georgia Tech.
El-Sayed attributed much of his success to his loving wife
Janice and said that "once I dont enjoy teaching [freshman]
chemistry anymore, I know its time to quit." It appears
that this is not going to happen any time soon. In fact, El-Sayed
is looking forward to his 80th birthday bash!
symposium included a gathering of El-Sayed's current and former
students, postdocs, and visiting scientists for brunch at
his house the following day. To his surprise and joy, many
of his former coworkers were able to arrange a trip to Atlanta,
even if that meant coming from as a far away as South Korea,
as was the case for Professor Arnim Henglein who was delighted
to interrupt his retirement in the Black Forest in Germany.
Indeed, the international character of his research family
is something of which El-Sayed has always been very proud.
He reminded everyone that "science itself is the same everywhere
in the world." His students have come from all over the world
and among the countries of his most recent students are such
places as Tanzania and Iran.
involvement in the advancement of science on the international
level can be clearly seen from his recent role as organizer
of the first IUPAC Workshop on Advanced Materials (WAM) on
Nanostructured Systems in July 1999. That first WAM was driven
by Prof. Jortner's vision that IUPAC should identify, characterize,
and recommend novel research directions by organizing conferenceswith
the involvement of scientists throughout the worldon
New Directions in Chemistry. Jortner was then IUPAC president,
and he cochaired the workshop with Prof. El-Sayed. Together,
they were able to assemble everyone involved in nanosciencefrom
Europe, the Americas, and Asiain one location, Hong
Kong, something that is rarely seen.
someone who is so busy attending meetings, considering departmental
policies, and serving as editor in chief for one of the leading
journals in physical chemistry and materials science, it seems
impossible that El-Sayed would have much time to prepare a
lecture or mentor students. But, in fact, one of his most
amazing qualities is that he always has time for an undergraduate
student seeking help on a homework problem, someone asking
for advice or a letter of recommendation, and most of all
for his graduate students. He literally stops everything at
any point in time to sit down and discuss interesting new
research results even if it turns out at the end of the discussion
that some results are simply experimental artifacts and require
more experiments. "Results are always good news and there
is no such thing as bad results!" is one of his favorite ways
to cheer up a frustrated and slightly embarrassed graduate
student. Being involved and staying on top of all of his students'
research projects and having an "open door" at any time, together
with his excitement for new results, are among El-Sayed's
best qualities as a teacher and mentor. And that will never
change, even at 70 years young!
asked about teaching and the role an advisor plays, Prof.
El-Sayed had the following to say:
important do you think your relationship with your advisor
Michael Kasha has been for your career?
was exciting and he created an atmosphere in his group which
encouraged everyone [to] always [talk] with each other about
research. We had beer and orbital theory seminars at Mike's
house. This time taught me the importance of having peers
in your research.
specific things did you learn from Michael Kasha that you
have used in your career?
always liked Mike's very intuitive perspective on a phenomenon.
He taught me the importance of looking for the big picture.
(Note: This is a principle El-Sayed has certainly always
cherished when figuring out scientific problems and one
he has taught to his students.)
do you see your role as a teacher with respect to students?
enjoy the role as a teacher and advisor by simply doing
science together. You can see how a person becomes independent.
You can always tell when they have matured because they
start saying "No" in a discussion.
important is teaching chemistry courses?
doubt about it, teaching gives you instant feedback that
you can build on. When you give a good lecture, the whole
day feels satisfying. But also, a bad lecture can make you
feel bad and then inspire you to work harder. This way you
are learning a tremendous amount yourself. The day I stop
being interested in teaching, that is the day I know I have
June 2003, Stephan Link moved from Atlanta to Austin, where
he joined Paul Barbara s group.
last modified 3 September 2003.
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