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Dr. Richard N. Zare

Honorary Doctorates Awarded to Chemists


Dr. Richard N. Zare

December 2013


Honorary Doctor of Science Citation

The University of Florida today presents an Honorary Doctorate of Science to internationally renowned scientist, educator and scholar Dr. Richard Zare

Dr. Richard Zare is currently one of the most important figures in the world of science. He is the Maguerite Blake Wilbur Professor in Natural Science, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemistry at Stanford University. He previously served as an assistant professor at both Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Colorado and obtained full professorship in the chemistry department at Columbia University, becoming the Higgins Professor of Natural Science.

Known as a brilliant and creative chemical physicist, Dr. Zare has authored and co-authored over 800 publications, obtained more than 50 patents, and published four books. He is most renowned for his research in the area of laser chemistry which has helped facilitate a better understanding of chemical reactions at the molecular level. As stated by his peers, Dr. Zare's innovative development and application of laser technologies to key problems in chemistry have illuminated critical new knowledge.

An enthusiastic and outstanding teacher at the undergraduate and graduate levels, he has had an enormous impact enabling and inspiring students to succeed and under his guidance, over 100 students have received their Ph.D. degrees. Dr. Zare is a pioneer in creating courses in chemistry for non-scientists and first-year undergraduate students.

Dr. Zare has maintained a long-standing scientific collaboration with USF faculty members in the Department of Chemistry for more than 15 years. In addition, he served as the Martin Lecturer presenting research seminars and engaging in scientific exchanges with faculty and graduate students.

A dedicated civic scientist and public servant, the breadth and depth of Dr. Zare's contributions to the scientific community and our society have been immense. He has served in many advisory and administrative capacities including Chair of the National Research Council's Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Applications, and chair of the National Science Board, a presidential appointment, where he had considerable influence over federal science policy.

Dr. Zare served as Chair of the President's National Medal of Science Selection Committee and most recently was appointed chair of the Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy. He currently serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors at Annual Reviews, Inc. and Chair of America Chemical Society's (ACS) Taskforce on Education.

The impact Dr. Zare has made to the field of chemistry has been recognized in a myriad of ways, including the National Medal of Science, presented by the President of the United States, the National Science Board Distinguished Service Award and ACS's highest honor, the Priestly Award. For his efforts in teaching and mentoring, he has received several teaching awards including the American Chemical Society Norris Award and the Pimentel Award in Chemical Education. In 2009, President Obama presented Dr. Zare with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring.

He is a graduate of Harvard University, where he received his B.A. degree in chemistry and physics in 1961 and his Ph.D. in chemical physics in 1964. Dr. Zare and his wife Susan reside in Stanford, California and have three daughters.



Commencement Remarks

It is customary on these occasions to offer what is thought to be a few words of wisdom to the graduates. First of all, I am reminded of one of the lines from Lincoln's Gettysburg address: "The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here." Your parents, relatives, and friends might be wondering: What did they do here? By virtue of the efforts of the graduates before us, in the last few short years the world around us has been transformed—perhaps imperceptibly—but transformed nonetheless—in ways that we, or even they, may not yet fully comprehend. That is no small thing.

To the graduates—

I have only a few words of advice for you: Don't leave!
Stay in touch with your university.

We are here today celebrating your accomplishments, hard-won by virtue of toil and dedication, forged in the crucible of frustration and ennui in the bowels of the lab or library. It bears remembering that your success is due in no small part to the acts of others: your parents, your relatives, your teachers, your friends and colleagues, random acts of kindness by strangers that provided that spark of an idea or a new perspective on a problem that challenged you.

I would hope that all of you leave here slightly singed by the fires of curiosity—that sometime during your time here you will have experienced the exhilaration of a new discovery, the power of an untested but promising hypothesis, or the thrill in the pure majesty of an idea. Curiosity is an addictive drug—once experienced, you want more. It is fuel that fires innovation—a glowing ember that when fanned with the passion of conviction and married to the discipline to confront the brutal reality of the limits of our current understanding—you can illuminate the dark corners of our ignorance, and challenge the conventional, entrenched wisdom of how science or technology is practiced. Of all the human emotions, love is the most important and by finding something that you love—by throwing yourselves completely in it—you will find great fulfillment in a life well lived.

Please do not forget that education and science is a social activity in which we constantly benefit from others—whose acts are not merely the product of their own self-interest. I know I am here because of the help from others, my teachers, my graduate students, my postdocs, and my friends at USF—and of course my wonderful, supporting wife, Susan—and to all them, please join me in giving thanks for this special day!