Naomi Halas wins Weizmann Women and Science Award

Israeli institute: Rice plasmonics pioneer ‘profoundly influenced modern optics’

Rice University plasmonics pioneer Naomi Halas has won a 2017 Weizmann Women and Science Award from the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel.

The biennial award, which was established in 1994, honors internationally renowned women scientists who have made significant contributions, both in their respective fields and to the larger scientific community. The award is designed to promote women in science by providing strong role models to motivate and encourage the next generation of young women scientists. It includes a $25,000 research grant.

Naomi Halas

Halas, a pioneer in the study of the fundamental properties and potential applications of light-activated nanoparticles, is Rice’s Stanley C. Moore Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and professor of chemistry, bioengineering, physics and astronomy, and materials science and nanoengineering.

In announcing the honor, the institute recognized Halas “for pioneering and seminal contributions to the field of plasmonics, which have profoundly influenced modern optics — both in basic understanding and in applications.”

Halas and fellow 2017 honoree Ursula Keller of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich will accept their honors and deliver a series of lectures June 7 at the Weizmann Institute.

“Ursi Keller has been a friend of mine since our postdoctoral days at AT&T Bell Laboratories, and I am thrilled to win this award with her,” Halas said.

Halas pursues research in light-nanoparticle interactions and their applications in biomedicine, optoelectronics, chemical sensing, photocatalysis and sustainability. She has explored how light-activated nanomaterials can be used for applications ranging from the treatment of cancer and molecular sensing to biomimetic photodetection and off-grid solar-powered sterilization.

Halas is the first person in the university’s history to be elected to both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering for research done at Rice. She has authored more than 300 refereed publications, and her work has been cited more than 45,000 times. She also is the founding director of Rice’s Smalley-Curl Institute, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Materials Research Society, the Optical Society, the American Physical Society, the International Society for Optical Engineering and the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

The Weizmann Institute of Science is a leading multidisciplinary basic research institution in the natural and exact sciences. Located near Tel Aviv, it was established in 1934 and renamed in 1949 in honor of its founder and Israel’s first president, Chaim Weizmann.

About Jade Boyd

Jade Boyd is science editor and associate director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.