Bassam Z. Shakhashiri is the first holder of the William T. Evjue Distinguished Chair for the Wisconsin Idea at UW-Madison. He is well known internationally for his effective leadership in promoting excellence in science education at all levels, and for his development and use of demonstrations in the teaching of chemistry in classrooms as well as in less formal settings, such as museums, convention centers, shopping malls and retirement homes. The Encyclopedia Britannica sites him as the "dean of lecture demonstrators in America." His scholarly publications, including the multi-volume series, Chemical Demonstrations: A Handbook for Teachers of Chemistry, are models of learning and instruction that have been translated into several languages. He is an advocate for policies to advance knowledge and to use science and technology to serve society. He promotes the exploration and establishment of links between science, the arts and the humanities, and the elevation of discourse on significant societal issues related to science, religion, politics, the economy, and ethics. Professor Shakhashiri is the 2011 President-Elect of the American Chemical Society, and will serve one-year terms as president in 2012 and immediate past president in 2013.
Professor Shakhashiri has given over 1300 invited lectures and presentations in North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, the Middle East and South America. He has been featured in newspapers, magazines, national and local radio and television; these include the New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, Time, the German-language Business Week, NBC Nightly News, National Public Radio, CNN, and the Larry King show. He appears as a regular guest on the Ideas Network of Wisconsin Public Radio.
He received the 2002 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology, "for his tireless efforts to communicate science to the general public, and especially children." In 2004 he was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the national chemistry fraternity Alpha Chi Sigma. In 2005 he received the Madison Metropolitan School District Distinguished Service Award for a Citizen, the Chemical Pioneer Award from the American Institute of Chemists, the ACS Helen M. Free Award for Public Outreach for "lifelong accomplishments and for explaining and demonstrating science with charisma and passion," and was cited in the Answer Book of Capital Newspapers as the "coolest UW professor." In 2006 he received the Rotary Senior Service Award from the Rotary Club of Madison. In 2007 he received the National Science Board Public Service Award and was cited for "extraordinary contributions to promote science literacy and cultivate the intellectual and emotional links between science and the arts for the public." In 2008 he received the inaugural Emerson Science Advocacy Medal from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and was cited for "distinguished, sustained, and lasting contributions in the development of the sciences."