Ames Laboratory, ISU celebrate Shechtman's return to Ames

Dan Shechtman, winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, returned to Ames from Israel on Feb. 14 for the first time since the award was announced in early October. Shechtman, an Ames Lab researcher, held a news conference and photo session at The Ames Laboratory and later met with students during a reception in his honor at the ISU Memorial Union.

The news conference featured a welcome by The Ames Laboratory Director Alex King who congratulated Shechtman on his achievement and warmly welcomed him back to Ames.

"The 80's were the decade of materials," King said. "Buckyballs, superconductors and Danny's discovery, quasicrystals. It was a monumental discovery that radically changed how we view materials."

Shechtman makes his entrance to the news conference
Ames Lab Director Alex King
King welcomes Shechtman to the podium
Shechtman talking about his Nobel

The program also included new Iowa State University President Steven Leath who marveled at Shechtman's tenacity in fighting for what he believed in as a scientist and for setting such a wonderful example for students.

Shechtman talked about his Nobel experience from the first unexpected phone call and the prize ceremony to the ongoing flurry of appearances and speaking engagements.

"The call came and they said, 'please hold the line for an important message from the Royal Swedish Academy' and I thought, 'Uh, oh,'" Shechtman told the audience of roughly 60 media representatives, staff and friends in attendence. "From that instant, my life changed ... like going to a new phase," relating it to the transition materials scientists often see when characterizing a material.

The audience for the news conference.
ISU Provost Elizabeth Hoffman (left) and Shechtman's wife
Shechtman, right, chats with new ISU President Steven
Leath and Ames Lab Director Alex King following the news

Shechtman shared several anecdotes about the Nobel experience and clockwork precision of the schedule during his stay in Stockholm. One of his memorable experiences was meeting Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf and his wife, Queen Silvia.

"I always wanted to know what a Queen does," Shechtman said, "so I asked her, in a polite manner, 'What do you do?'"

Shechtman has already spent a good deal of time on the lecture circuit, speaking at every university in Sweden before returning to Israel. He has a full schedule in this country as well, speaking at 7 p.m. on Feb. 20 on the ISU campus, before leaving Iowa for Atlanta later this month. He said he's received invitations from 10 different countries thus far, including Trinidad/Tobago.

"In all my talks, I try to speak to the students," he said. "I tell them, if you want to succeed in your career, become an expert in something, be a professional," adding that he also tells them to not fear the inevitable failures that precede success.

Following the news conference, Shechtman made an appearance in the Oak Room of the ISU Memorial Union, where he cheerfully signed autographs for a line of student admirers, chatting with them and then posing with them individually and in groups. Students signed a banner congratulating the Nobel Prize winner and munched on pentagonal shaped cookies representative of the quasicrystals for which he's known for discovering. To see photos from the student reception, click here.

Shechtman autographs the forearm on an admiring fan at the student reception.
Shechtman holds up one of the pentagonal cookies served
during the reception.
Shechtman talks with member of the ISU Materials Research Society.