April 2, 2024

Nobel laureate Moungi Bawendi, a 1978 West Lafayette High School alum, to join President Chiang for April 25 Presidential Lecture

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Nobel laureate Moungi Bawendi grew up in France, Tunisia and the United States, living in West Lafayette while his parents taught at Purdue University. Now the Lester Wolfe Professor of Chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Bawendi will return to Purdue for a Presidential Lecture Series event April 25.

Bawendi will join Purdue President Mung Chiang for a conversation about his pioneering, Nobel-winning research in producing quantum dots, which are small particles whose unusual quantum properties depend on their size. Titled “A Synthesis, Born of Necessity, Unlocks a Nano-World of Opportunities,” the lecture is at 6 p.m. in Elliott Hall of Music. While free and open to the public, tickets are required and are available here.

chiang-m19 Mung Chiang Download image

Co-awarded the 2023 Nobel Prize in chemistry, Bawendi (whose full name is pronounced Moon-gee Bu-wend-ee) shared the honor with Russian-born American physicist Aleksey Yekimov and American physical chemist Louis Brus. Quantum dots are now a multibillion-dollar industry, with mainstream applications in cancer detection, solar energy, television displays and potentially in semiconductor fabrication.

“As a community of scholars and curious minds, Purdue continues to be a convening spot for those who are making fundamental differences to our world,” Chiang said. "We are honored to welcome Moungi Bawendi, the 2023 Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, back home to West Lafayette, where he was a student at our local high school. And we look forward to discussing his pioneering work in advancing the development of quantum dots.”


In addition to his Purdue appearance, Bawendi will visit with students and teachers at West Lafayette Jr.-Sr. High School.

The 1978 West Lafayette graduate was inducted into the school’s Wall of Pride in 2022, and he credits retired West Lafayette chemistry teacher James Guy for changing his life and starting him on his career path. Bawendi fondly recalls that calculators had only recently been introduced in the classroom, having first learned to use a slide rule. Bawendi was co-valedictorian of his graduating class and founder and co-captain of the soccer club.

His mother, Helene Baouendi, was an assistant professor of computer information systems at Purdue from 1985-88. His father, renowned mathematician M. Salah Baouendi, became a full professor at Purdue in 1973 and served as department head from 1980-87 before joining the University of California, San Diego, in 1988.

Bawendi received a bachelor’s degree in 1982 and a master’s degree in 1983 from Harvard University before earning a PhD from the University of Chicago in 1988. He joined Bell Laboratories for two years of postdoctoral research, where Bawendi first began studying nanomaterials alongside Brus. Bawendi joined MIT’s faculty in 1990, becoming an associate professor in 1995 and professor in 1996.

In 1993, Bawendi and his collaborators concentrated on forming high-quality cadmium selenide quantum dots. Through these efforts, Bawendi revolutionized the chemical production of quantum dots, resulting in almost-perfect particles. This greater quality was necessary so these nanoparticles could be utilized in other types of applications — in displays, as flexible electronics, tiny sensors, thinner solar cells and encrypted quantum communication. 

Bawendi has followed an interdisciplinary research program that has probed the science and technology of chemically synthesized nanostructures. He was one of the initial developers of the field of colloidal quantum dots, with his work spanning from fundamental studies of nanomaterials to their applications. His laboratory at MIT has advanced applications of nanomaterials for light emission, photodetection, spectral sensing, and solar energy harvesting. The Bawendi Group has advanced novel tools for in vivo imaging. His work has included:

  • The development of methods for synthesizing, characterizing and processing quantum dots, magnetic nanoparticles and J-aggregates.
  • The study of the fundamental optical and magnetic properties of nanostructures using a variety of spectroscopic methods, including the development of photon correlation tools to examine single nanoscopic emitters.
  • Incorporating quantum dots, magnetic particles, J-aggregates and thin film materials into optical and electronic device structures.
  • Developing optical tools and probes, including nanoparticles and other imaging agents, for biomedical imaging.

Bawendi is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

About the Presidential Lecture Series

Launched in 2014 by then-Purdue President Mitch Daniels and continued by President Mung Chiang, the Presidential Lecture Series exposes Purdue students and the broader community to inspiring ideas, courageous leadership, and models of civic engagement and civil discourse. The Presidential Lecture Series has had over 40 guests of many viewpoints and perspectives and hosted some of the great intellectual, business and civic leaders of our time. As one of the world’s premier centers of scholarly leadership, Purdue is — appropriately and necessarily — a regular venue for great thinkers across a wide variety of disciplines. 

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a public research institution demonstrating excellence at scale. Ranked among top 10 public universities and with two colleges in the top four in the United States, Purdue discovers and disseminates knowledge with a quality and at a scale second to none. More than 105,000 students study at Purdue across modalities and locations, including nearly 50,000 in person on the West Lafayette campus. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue’s main campus has frozen tuition 13 years in a row. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap — including its first comprehensive urban campus in Indianapolis, the new Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. School of Business, and Purdue Computes — at https://www.purdue.edu/president/strategic-initiatives.

Writer/Media contact: Phillip Fiorini, pfiorini@purdue.edu, 765-430-6189

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