In DepthEducation

Founder's death unsettles Egypt's science city

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Science  12 Aug 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6300, pp. 632-633
DOI: 10.1126/science.353.6300.632

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The death of Ahmed Zewail cast uncertainty over the future of an elite Egyptian research enterprise that he championed. Zewail was born in Egypt, but spent most of his career as a chemist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. He won the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for pioneering the field of femtochemistry: using laser pulses as a strobe light to track chemical reactions as they happen. Shortly thereafter he proposed launching a research university in Egypt, in hopes that it would attract accomplished Egyptian scientists to return home, and bolster the Egyptian economy over the long run. The organization, Zewail City of Science and Technology outside of Cairo, took more than a decade to get off the ground. Today it consists of seven research institutes and a university that is expected to graduate its first students next year. Zewail helped raise nearly $1 billion for the enterprise. His death robs Zewail City of its most powerful fundraiser and advocate, raising concerns over the science city’s long-term future.