Nobel Laureate Dudley Herschbach, a Harvard University Professor of Science, who won the coveted Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1986, recently left a standing-room-only crowd spellbound at New Jersey Institute of Technology’s (NJIT) College of Science and Liberal Arts (CSLA).
The scholar spoke to students, professors and staff on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the founding of CSLA. The event was the first of its kind for the college, home to departments at NJIT of physics, mathematics, chemistry and humanities. The enthusiastic turnout of more than 150 people prompted CSLA Dean Mill Jonakait, Ph.D., to predict that the night may become an annual event and to express gratitude that Herschbach was available.
“Dr. Herschbach is not only a person who has made heroic contributions to his own field, but he is also a person who thrives on the interaction with students and colleagues,” said Jonakait. “He did us a great honor by being here to kick off an event that honored CSLA, a college that understands the importance of training young scientists and engineers - many of whom, like Herschbach-- are the first in their families to attend college. We were simply thrilled to have him with us."
Herschbach’s talk, “The Impossible Takes a Little Longer—Reflections on the Nature of Science and Science Education,” highlighted the value of curiosity-driven research and the kinship of science and the humanities as liberal arts.
Later, during the question and answer period he described what it felt like to receive a Nobel Prize. While acknowledging the obvious pride in winning such an honor, he also emphasized the excitement of original research that could result in a discovery that not only rocks the scientific world, but is applauded by peers.
Herschbach spoke eloquently and passionately about following his dream and the thrill he felt when he could actually “lift the veil of nature” to find the truth beneath. He encouraged listeners to do the same, reminding them that the most profound discoveries emerge from the simplest and most obvious questions. Herschbach shared one-third of the Noble Prize, in 1986, with Yuan T. Lee of the University of California, Berkeley, and John C. Polanyi, of the University of Toronto, Canada, for their contributions concerning the dynamics of chemical elementary processes.
A sit-down dinner for alumni and friends of the university followed the talk during which 14 professors, students and staff were lauded.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The awardees with their towns follow. Photos are available in 300 dpi and can be either emailed or mailed. Interviews can be arranged in your area for follow-up. Contact Sheryl Weinstein, 973-596-3436, for details.)
Current director of the Murray Center For Women and former assistant dean of CSLA, Anne Wiley, of Fort Lee, received an award for exemplary service to CSLA.
Gregory A. Kriegsmann, Ph.D., of Radnor, PA., distinguished professor of mathematics and holder of the foundation chair in applied mathematics, received an award for outstanding service to graduate education. Kriegsmann established the graduate program in mathematics that since its 1995 inception has awarded 24 doctorates. Joseph Bozzelli, Ph.D., of Livingston, distinguished professor of chemistry, received the same award for his work on professional journals.
Robert Lynch, Ph.D., of Maplewood, professor of English, received the outstanding service award for undergraduate education. Padma Gulati, of Berkeley Heights, a departmental coordinator in the mathematical sciences department, was named outstanding staff member.
Graduate students honored for exceptional work were Ludmyla Barannyk, of Maplewood, a master’s degree student in applied mathematics; Aaron Comrov, of Bronx, NY, a master’s degree student in environmental policy studies; Keith Silverman, of Somerset, a doctoral student in environmental sciences and policy studies.
Three undergraduates received awards. Brian Schulkin, of Norwood, a dual degree major in both applied physics, offered by CSLA, and electrical engineering, offered by the Newark College of Engineering. Miao Li, of Metuchen, another dual degree major, in mathematical sciences, offered by CSLA, and computer science, offered by the College of Computing Sciences. Also honored was Janet Alejandro, of Jersey City, who is majoring in professional and technical communications, a unique major available from CSLA.
Alumni awards were given to Robin Tanenbaum, of Poughkeepsie, NY; John Pelesko, Ph.D., of Scotch Plains, an assistant professor, at Georgia Institute of Technology and Richard Mohring, Ph.D., of East Brunswick, a scientist.
Herschbach is the Frank B. Baird, Jr. professor of science at Harvard University. He is passionate about improving pre-college science education in the U.S. and to those ends is chairman of the board of Science Service. This organization publishes Science News and conducts the Intel Science Talent Search and the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Herschbach devotes his current research to methods of orienting molecules for studies of collision stereo dynamics and means of slowing and trapping molecules to examine chemistry at long wavelengths.