My memories of ahmed zewail - from a snowy northern Sweden to the nobel prize

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In the summer of 1993, two Russian scientists from the Institute of Physics in Nizhny Novgorod drove the 1, 934 km to Umeå, where I was based at that time, in their red Lada car loaded with a home-built Ti:Sa laser. Within a few days, the laser was put in operation, pumped by a small argon-ion laser, and produced stable -100 fs pulses at 790 nm. These pulses were applied to our favorite topic at that time, energy transfer within light-harvesting complexes of photosynthetic purple bacteria. Energy transfer times between the pigment molecules of two different LH2 complexes were measured and the work was published in Chem. Phys. Lett. (CPM). In March 1994, Ahmed was touring Sweden, and having seen our recently published LH2 work in CPL, he took the detour to northern Umeå. On March 24, I picked up Ahmed outside the “Stora Hotellet” in Umeå, dressed in a thin summer jacket and shoes suitable for California climate, but not for a cold, snowy, and gloomy day in March in northern Sweden. This was how I met Ahmed for the first time. We quickly moved to the chemistry department, where we had a full day of scientific discussions. We had continued the work on energy transfer in photosynthetic light-harvesting complexes and had a bunch of exciting new results that we thought indicated vibrational coherence and interexciton state relaxation processes. Ahmed showed his enthusiasm and support to the results, which we submitted to CPM a month later. Through this work, and much work that followed as well as work by other groups, a deep understanding of the primary processes of photosynthesis was reached (see, e.g, Ref. 4). Nevertheless, using new sophisticated ultrafast methods such as 2D electronic spectroscopy, increasingly more mechanistic detail is revealed still today (see, e.g., Ref. 5). At the dinner we had later in the evening, Ahmed encountered a northern specialty, which I think became somewhat of a favorite dessert - warm cloudberries with vanilla ice cream….

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPersonal And Scientific Reminiscences
Subtitle of host publicationTributes To Ahmed Zewail
PublisherWorld Scientific Publishing
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9781786344366
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jan 1

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Physical Chemistry


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