Chemistry student wins national honor

GW graduate student Billy Acon will schmooze with 66 Nobel Prize winners in Germany for the 50th Anniversary Meeting of Nobel Laureates June 26.

Acon, a 24-year-old chemistry Ph.D. student, was selected out of 36 students nationwide to participate in the event. Nobel Prize winners in chemistry, physics, physiology and medicine will attend the meeting to discuss issues of importance in their fields with students from around the world.

I was ecstatic when I heard of my opportunity to sit down and chit-chat with 66 Nobel laureates, some of the most influential people and greatest minds of our times in the areas of biology, chemistry and physics, Acon said, according to a University press release.

Chemistry Professor Akbar Montaser, who said he recognized Acon’s desire to work hard as well as his ability to produce, nominated his student.

Acon has been Montaser’s student for more than a year. He is one of eight chemistry Ph.D. students who work together on elemental analysis under the Montaser’s guidance.

He was extremely productive, Montaser said. In only eighteen months, he produced six publications in the field of Analytical Chemistry.

Acon is in Germany and will be there for the next two months to conduct collaborative experiments at the Central Department of Analytical Chemistry Research Centre.

Montaser said he wants to see his students excel.

Since 1981 Montaser has nominated a record number of students for national and international awards.

I always promote my students, Montaser said. They become examples to other students and attract other good students to the University.

In 1999, John McLean, also a chemistry Ph.D. student, won a Research & Development Award, recognizing technical excellence for his invention of the Direct Injection High Efficiency Nebulizer.

McLean designed DIHEN to analyze potentially hazardous elements at ultra-trace levels. DIHEN has the ability to trace very small amounts of carcinogenic materials attached to the DNA that enables one to identify cancer without the use of radioactivity.

Nobody’s been able to do this before, McLean said. DIHEN also has the ability to trace very small amounts of nuclear waste that effect the environment, McLean said.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson, like Montaser, said he strongly believes in bringing students like Acon and McLean together with Nobel Prize winners and students around the world who are also involved in scientific research.

The 50th Anniversary meeting of Nobel laureates will bring together 600 graduate students from Europe, Africa, Asia and North America.

The students will participate in daily small group discussions with the Nobel Prize winners and will sit in on their lectures.

The meeting will certainly play a major role in fine tuning my graduate studies and shaping my future goals, Acon said. Clearly this isn’t an opportunity that students at any school have, and this wouldn’t have been possible for me if it weren’t for a distinguished research advisor from GW.

The U.S. Department of Energy is sponsoring the U.S. students who attend the meeting.

Science is an increasingly international effort, Richardson said. So it is essential that our researchers who are just starting their scientific careers have opportunities to meet their counterparts and learn from those whose discoveries have profoundly affected all of our lives.

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