Moungi Bawendi is one of three recipients of the 2023 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Locally, this is significant because Dr. Bawendi was a 1978 graduate from West Lafayette High School and was named to the school’s Wall of Pride in 2022. The other recipients are Louis Brus and Alexei Ekimov. The award is for their work in discovery of clusters of atoms known as quantum dots. Per the Wikipedia entry:
Quantum Dots also called semiconductor nanocrystals, are semiconductor particles a few nanometers in size, having optical and electronic properties that differ from those of larger particles as a result of quantum mechanical effects. They are a central topic in nanotechnology and materials science.
After graduating from West Lafayette in 1978, Dr. Bawendi went on to Harvard and ultimately got a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Chicago, did postdoctoral research at Bell Laboratories, and joined the faculty at MIT. Now, obviously Harvard, MIT, University of Chicago, Bell Labs, and Dr. Bawendi’s own considerable talents had something to do with his work, discoveries, and this prize. But I’m also going to mention the foundation that West Side helped contribute. Jim Guy (also a West Lafayette Wall of Pride honoree) taught chemistry at our high school for 39 years. The school recently built an academic wing named in his honor. I’ve heard more than one distinguished scientist give credit to Mr. Guy for getting them started or being a significant influence on their path. Funding your public schools is part of what eventually gets you to advances in quantum computing, cell biology research, solar cells, LEDs, and other potential quantum dot applications.
(Also – with George Karlaftis on the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs, 2023 gives West Lafayette graduates a Nobel Prize and a Super Bowl. Not bad for a small public high school in the Midwest!)
Update: Dave Bangert has an excellent write-up on the news. Obviously Dr. Bawendi remains the star of the show, but I love the discussion with and about Jim Guy, West Lafayette’s long-time chemistry teacher:
The phone was ringing early Wednesday morning at the home of Jim Guy, former West Lafayette High School chemistry teacher and namesake for the school’s recently built academic wing.
All the calls came with the news: One of his former students, Moungi Bawendi – an MIT researcher and West Side grad, class of ’78 – was one of three scientists awarded the 2023 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work in the field of quantum dots.
“Incredible,” Guy said. “We had so many kids who did very, very well. There were so many great ones. … I’m very excited about this. For Moungi, but also for West Lafayette schools.”
Inducted in to the West Lafayette High School Wall of Pride in 2022, Bawendi said chemistry was his favorite class, pointing to Guy and his labs as “instrumental in starting me on my career path.”
“I still remember the time when we synthesized an ester that smelled like banana,” Bawendi said in a bio offered to the West Lafayette Schools Education Foundation, which oversees the Wall of Pride at the high school. “Mr. Guy was inspiring. … He was one of those teachers who changes your life.”