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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Bassam Z. Shakhashiri Public Science Engagement Award

University of Wisconsin-Madison mascot Bucky Badger helps Chemistry Professor Bassam Shakhashiri perform a chemistry experiment during the second of two 50th anniversary shows of "Once Upon a Christmas Cheery in the Lab of Shakhashiri" to a sellout audience at the Middleton Performing Arts Center in Middleton, Wis., on Dec. 1, 2019. Started in 1970 by Shakhashiri as an end-of-the-fall-semester freshman chemistry lecture, the tradition has evolved into an annual science outreach event enjoyed by hundreds of people each year. The show is frequently recorded and broadcast on PBS Wisconsin. (Photo by Jeff Miller / UW-Madison)The Bassam Z. Shakhashiri Public Science Engagement Award recognizes a University of Wisconsin-Madison faculty and academic staff member (one awarded to each category) who has shown excellence in engaging the public in their work in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) research. Two $5,000 awards will be announced and presented in spring 2024.


The award is named for Bassam Z. Shakhashiri, emeritus professor of chemistry and the William T. Evjue Distinguished Chair for the Wisconsin Idea, in honor of his “Science is Fun” philosophy and long-term commitment to science education and public engagement.

This award is supported by the UW-Madison’s Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and the Morgridge Institute for Research.

STORY ABOUT THE 2023 AWARDEES: Excellence in outreach recognized with inaugural Bassam Z. Shakhashiri Public Science Engagement Award


You may log-in using your UW–Madison NetID and password. Select the “Shakhashiri Award” program title. Click “Apply” to start a new application.  When prompted, please assign a name to the application that identifies the nominee (e.g., Smith Jane).  Then, proceed through the entire application.

Nominations will consist of two parts: a cover sheet with information about the nominee and nominator and a few short questions and answers (1 paragraph each) describing how and why the nominee engages the public in science. The application may include supporting evidence (two or three pictures) of engagement.

After completing the items above, you will be able to select “review and submit” before making your final submission. Please make sure to review the entire document before you select to “submit” it. You will also have the option to download the entire document.

For technical questions or for general information, please send an email to:

Nomination materials should address the following criteria:

  • Public science engagement that consistently and substantially exceeds, in quality, the expectations of their position. In keeping with the Wisconsin Idea, engagement should contribute to the individual’s department, institution and the state of Wisconsin.
  • Initiative and creativity: Performance that consistently and substantially demonstrates an innovative approach to public science engagement for the common good of society.
  • Type of public engagement and audiences.
  • Underserved communities: Describe how access to and participation in STEAM has been broadened.

For faculty nominees:

  • Address the degree to which public engagement is communicated as a priority for their research team or to which they encourage their research team to participate in Public Engagement in Science activities.

About Bassam Z. Shakhashiri:

Bassam Z. Shakhashiri is emeritus professor of chemistry and the first holder of the William T. Evjue Distinguished Chair for the Wisconsin Idea at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He joined the faculty in September of 1970 and retired in September 2021.

He is well known internationally for his leadership in promoting excellence in science education at all levels, for his commitment to engaging the public with science, and for his development and use of demonstrations in the teaching of chemistry in classrooms and in public settings, such as museums, convention centers, shopping malls and retirement homes. Professor Shakhashiri is best known to the public at large for his annual program, “Once Upon a Christmas Cheery, In the Lab of Shakhashiri,” seen on PBS stations around the country.

Professor Shakhashiri was the founding chair of the UW System Undergraduate Teaching Improvement Council in 1977 (now called Office of Professional and Instructional Development). From 1984 to 1990 he served as Assistant Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) for Science and Engineering Education, (now called Education and Human Resources) and presided over the rebuilding of all the NSF efforts in science and engineering education after they had been essentially eliminated in the early 1980s. His leadership has helped set the annual NSF education budget at its current level of nearly $1 billion. In 2012 Professor Shakhashiri served as President of the American Chemical Society (ACS), formed the ACS Presidential Commission on Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences, the ACS Climate Science Working Group and the ACS Global Water Initiative Working Group.

Professor Shakhashiri is an advocate for policies and practices to advance knowledge and to use science and technology to serve society. He promotes the exploration and establishment of links between science, arts and the humanities, and the elevation of discourse on significant societal issues related to science, religion, politics, the economy and ethics.

His website is