College of Science

Schelly receives 2012 Kerr Medal for work in electro-optics

Zoltan A. Schelly, professor emeritus of chemistry and biochemistry, has been awarded the 2012 Kerr Medal for his seminal contributions to the field of electro-optics.

Schelly was presented with the award September 5 at the 13th International Symposium on Colloidal and Molecular Electro-optics in Ghent, Belgium. The Kerr Medal, named for Scottish physicist John Kerr, has been awarded only eight times in the past 38 years.

"Thank you. I feel greatly honored by the international electro-optics community," Schelly said upon receiving the award. "I accept the Kerr Medal on behalf of my co-workers - graduate students and postdoctoral fellows at UTA - whose more than two decades of dedicated research and novel contributions are being acknowledged."

Rasika Dias, professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, said the award was a fitting tribute to Schelly's body of work over the course of his career.

"Dr. Zoltan Schelly is one of the top scientists and an outstanding colleague. He served the chemistry and biochemistry department and UTA well for many years and contributed tremendously to our growth and reputation," Dias said. "It is very nice to see Zoltan honored with the Kerr Medal by the International Advisory Board of the ELOPTO Conference Series for his work on transient electro-optics of soft matter (micelles, reverse micelles, and synthetic vesicles, etc. - and their use for the creation of nano-materials and quantum dots). It is truly a well-deserved honor!"

Added College of Science Dean Pamela Jansma, "I know I speak for everyone in the College of Science in congratulating Dr. Schelly upon his receiving the Kerr Medal. This is truly a remarkable achievement and it attests to the groundbreaking work Dr. Schelly has done in the field of electro-optics. The fact that he is just the eighth person to receive the award speaks to the significance of his contributions."

Schelly joined the faculty of UT Arlington in 1977 and became director of the University's Center for Colloidal and Interfacial Dynamics in 1982. He served as department acting chair from 1990-91. His experimental and theoretical research activities have focused on the dynamics of self-organized systems close to, and far from, thermodynamic equilibrium.

Born in Budapest, Hungary, Schelly earned a B.S. in Engineering Chemistry in 1962 and a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry in 1967, both from the Vienna University of Technology.

"I chose physical chemistry for its fundamental nature: the combination of mathematics, physics and chemistry, and the possibility of doing both experimental and theoretical research," he said.

Schelly immigrated to the United States as part of the newly established scientist quota in 1968 and took a postdoctoral position working on mass-spectrometric studies of the diffusion of noble gases in primitive
Zoltan Schelly accepts the Kerr Medal on Sept. 5 in Ghent, Belgium. (Photo courtesy of ELOPTO Symposium website)
glasses, in the Laboratory of Surface Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In 1969, he joined Prof. E.M. Eyring's group at the University of Utah to study fast reactions by relaxation methods. He accepted an assistant professor position at the University of Georgia in 1970, and was an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow with L. De Maeyer and Nobel Laureate M. Eigen in the Max-Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, Germany, in 1974, where he worked on the development of the laser temperature-jump method. He came to UT Arlington three years later.

Transient electro-optic studies of synthetic liposomes by Schelly and his students led to their discovery of the only current method for the production of sub-nanometer size cluster precursors to semiconductor quantum dots in solution. His other research interests have included experimental and theoretical studies of fast rate processes (on the millisecond to nanosecond timescale) in systems close to and far from thermodynamic equilibrium, the relaxation of self-organized colloidal systems, and oscillating and chaotic reactions induced by perturbation via a high-voltage electric or a high-intensity laser pulse.

Schelly taught undergraduate courses including General Chemistry and Physical Chemistry, and graduate classes including Physical Chemistry, Chemical Kinetics, Chemical Reactions Dynamics, Statistical Thermodynamics, Principles of Laser Spectroscopy, and Colloid and Surface Chemistry. He was a visiting professor at the National Defense Academy in Yokosuka, Japan, in 1991, and at the Technical University of Budapest, Hungary in 1999.

Among the honors he has received are the M.G. Michael Award for Research, University of Georgia (1975); the UT Arlington Award for Distinguished Research (1982); the Wilfred T. Doherty Award of the American Chemical Society, Dallas-Fort Worth Section (1986); and election to chair of the International Advisory Board of the Colloidal and Molecular Electro-Optics (ELOPTO) Conference Series (2010-12). He has served on the editorial advisory boards of Advances in Molecular Relaxation and Interaction Processes (1980-83); Journal of Molecular Liquids (1983-present, guest editor 1995-96); Acta Chimica Hungarica (1992-2001); and Journal of Surface Science and Technology (1996-99).

He has over 110 publications, gave over 90 invited lectures and seminars, and presented 80 papers at national and international conferences and symposia. He retired in 2011 and received professor emeritus status that same year.

Posted October 16, 2012