Moungi Bawendi becomes first scientist of Tunisian origin to win Nobel Prize

Moungi Bawendi becomes first scientist of Tunisian origin to win Nobel Prize
2 min read
05 October, 2023
Moungi Bawendi is among three scientists to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry “for the discovery and synthesis of quantum dots”.
Moungi Bawendi was announced as a winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry on Thursday [Getty]

Tunisian-American scientist Moungi Bawendi has made history as the first scientist of Tunisian origin to win the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

Bawendi won the prestigious award collectively with Louis Brus and Aleksey Ekimov for their discovery of tiny clusters of atoms known as quantum dots, which are used to create colours in flat screens, light-emitting diode (LED) lamps, and devices that help surgeons see blood vessels in tumours.  

The quantum dots are an artificially created collection of extremely small semiconducting nanoparticles that glow blue, red or green when exposed to light. 

The Royal Academy of Sciences stated that the research of the three US-based scientists on quantum dots can contribute to "flexible electronics, tiny sensors, thinner solar cells and encrypted quantum communication" in the future.

This means that thanks to Bawendi and his colleagues' work on custom-made quantum dots, there is a plethora of commercial and scientific uses to come.

Bawendi said he felt "very surprised, sleepy, shocked, unexpected and very honoured" to be given the award.

Co-winner Brus, added that the news was so unexpected that he ignored the first half a dozen phone calls he received from various people who attempted to share the news with him. 

On Wednesday, the academy inadvertently released the names of the Nobel chemistry prize winners, displaying Bawendi, Brus and Ekimov’s names in an email that went public. 

Johan Aqvist, chair of the academy's Nobel committee for chemistry, had told Reuters at the time: "It is a mistake by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Our meeting starts at 0930 CET (0730 GMT) so no decision has been made yet. The winners have not been selected."   

Every Arab-origin Nobel Prize laureate
Moungi Bawendi (Nobel Prize for Chemistry, 2023)
Aziz Sancar (Nobel Prize for Chemistry, 2015)
Tawakkul Karman (Nobel Peace Prize, 2011)
ِAhmed Zewail (Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1999)
Yasser Arafat (Nobel Peace Prize, 1994)
Elias James Corey (Nobel Prize for Chemistry, 1990)
Naguib Mahfouz (Nobel Prize in Literature, 1988)
Anwar El Sadat (Nobel Prize in Peace, 1978)
Peter Medawar (Nobel Prize in Medicine, 1960)

Bawendi is an American chemist of Tunisian descent, who was born in Paris in 1961 to mathematician Mohamed Salah Bounty and Hélène Poupart.  

Spending his childhood years in France and Tunisia, his father then immigrated to America where Bawendi received a master’s degree in chemistry from Harvard University and a doctorate from the University of Chicago. 

Since 2008, Bawendi has co-taught thermodynamics and kinetics with Professor Keith Nelson at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  

As a leading participant in the field of colloidal quantum dot research, Bawendi is one of the most cited chemists of the past decade.