Steve Acquah, adjunct research professor of chemistry and Digital Media Lab coordinator at the W.E.B. Du Bois Library, spoke at the dedication of the Florida State University (FSU) Chemical Sciences Laboratory Auditorium in honor of Nobel Prize winner Sir Harold Kroto on Friday, Oct. 4.
Acquah, the former manager of the Kroto Research Group at FSU, received his doctorate at the University of Sussex, England, under the supervision of Kroto. Acquah gave a talk titled “Beyond the Possible” that highlighted his work at UMass Amherst and showed how Kroto’s legacy lives on through his work at the UMass Libraries Digital Media Lab, his chemistry laboratory and the Global Educational Outreach for Science Engineering and Technology (GEOSET) initiative.
Florida State named the chemistry auditorium after Kroto – who died in 2016 – and the university’s department of chemistry and biochemistry placed an art piece of a buckyball designed by FSU’s Master Craftsman Studio in the foyer outside the auditorium. The buckyball was unveiled by Kroto's widow, Lady Margaret Kroto.
Actor Sir Ian McKellen, a childhood friend of Kroto’s, recorded a video that was played at a dinner later in the evening. He described how they felt they had something in common feeling slightly like outsiders in the north of England – McKellen beginning to understand what it meant to be gay, and Harry as a child of an immigrant family. McKellen praised Harry’s “imaginative way he could communicate with people young and old.”
The day after the dedication, a buckyball workshop for children was led by Jonathan Hare, who was a member of the original team that included Kroto that isolated C60. In the workshop the children learned about the life of Richard Buckminster Fuller and Kroto before building their own model of a buckyball. Acquah said, “The buckyball workshop was one of Harold Kroto’s favorite ways to get children involved in the sciences and hands-on activities.”
Acquah, who is also a 2019-20 UMass Sustainability Curriculum Fellow, co-instructs the “Makerspace Leadership and Outreach” course with Charlie Schweik, School of Public Policy, at the All-Campus Makerspace.
“The maker movement is exactly what Sir Harold Kroto would have been passionate to support,” Acquah says. “He always spoke about how owning a Meccano set helped him develop the skills he would use for research. The students in the class exemplify the creative talents at UMass Amherst.”