Center for Nanotechnology in Society

James R. Von Ehr, II, grew up in Grand Rapids and New Buffalo, Michigan, one of three children. His parents did not attend college but emphasized that education was important. Von Ehr's interest in electronics was fostered by the gift of some vacuum tubes, a homemade Heathkit ham radio, and electronics magazines. He was a page in the Michigan legislature when he was fourteen, and he finished high school as one of the first two National Merit Scholars from New Buffalo. This achievement won him a scholarship to Michigan State University, where he began a physics major but switched to computer science. He and some others, wanting to see how the operating system worked, hacked into MSU's computer system; this breach was traced to him, and he was forced to desist, but the group thought of themselves as the "alternative systems programming group," a name Von Ehr memorialized in the name of his first company, "Altsys Corporation." Von Ehr's first job was developing CAD tools for integrated circuit layout for Texas Instruments (TI). On his first day there he met his future wife, Gayla, who was also an engineer. While at TI he obtained a master's degree at the University of Texas at Dallas. Disagreement with the goals of management caused Von Ehr to leave TI and, with Kevin Crowder, to start his first company, Altsys Corporation. They began with a plan to develop games, running the entire operation from Von Ehr's house. Eventually they decided on utilities for Macintosh computers, which he says, wistfully, had beautiful architecture. Settling on font editing, they developed FONTastic, helping create desktop publishing. Next was FONTographer for Apple's LaserWriter, used to develop typefaces for most of the world's languages. Business was so good they expanded out of the house into a real office. Next Von Ehr developed FreeHand, which he licensed to Aldus Corporation. Eventually he got FreeHand back and sold Altsys to Macromedia, where he continued working for two years. He hired the team that wrote Dreamweaver; eventually Adobe took over the business and killed FreeHand. Von Ehr had been selling his stock gradually, and at that point he started a new company, Zyvex Corporation. Von Ehr had become fascinated by nanotechnology as a result of hearing Eric Drexler speak and of reading his books. He has funded Zyvex's foray into nano with a great deal of his own money because he believes in nano. Von Ehr had expected rapid development along the lines of computer technology, but he says that the United States is behind China and Japan in commercialization. Zyvex received grants from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Early on they partnered with Honeywell for a grant from the Advanced Technology Program (ATP), one of the few government programs Von Ehr considers worthwhile. When ATP was shut down Von Ehr fired his President/COO and assumed management himself. The company was split into three companies, one of which was sold. Von Ehr sees nano becoming increasingly important in medicine—Zyvex is involved in a joint venture—Nano-Retina—with an Israeli company to develop a vision system for the blind—and in military applications, as well as in quantum computing. He and Steven Jurvetsen attended the signing of the 21st Century Nanotech Research and Development Act, sponsored by Senator George Allen, where he felt impressed by the White House and exhilarated by standing next to President Bush. With E. Glenn Gaustad Von Ehr formed the Texas Nanotechnology Initiative. He has also endowed scholarships at Michigan State University; he describes the process of application for one of the scholarships, saying he thinks he could never have won one. He continues to work at Zyvex Labs and his Singapore company, Zycraft. He is fascinated by energy, especially energy storage, and would like to establish an energy storage company; but he says that the government regulations and mandates make a new company prohibitively expensive and even threaten personal freedom. He says he would establish a public company only outside the United States. Von Ehr meditates on the interface between computers and nano; the inevitability of progress; the value of competition. He thinks the government's role should be to encourage invention by purchasing new technology, such as LED lighting, when it is at its most expensive; let entrepreneurs, not research at universities, develop new products. We should use the example of the semiconductor revolution: let private enterprise invent and develop by incremental goals. He wishes the NNI would focus on energy and energy storage; as an example of poor planning he points to the windmills in Texas, which are underutilized because there is no way to store their energy, nor to transport it to market. He believes nature makes the best catalysts; we should learn from the ways biological mechanisms work and emulate nature's atomic precision. In addition to his work, Von Ehr finds enjoyment in reading science fiction, in his art collection (he loves Escher's unique way of looking at things), music, and promoting his libertarian ideals, including through the Cato Institute, Reason Foundation, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, where he is now on the Board of Directors. He explains that he discontinued his subscription to Scientific American because it became a forum for personal attacks on scientists who did not toe George Soros's left-liberal party line. He talks a little about transhumanism and artificial intelligence and the ability of humans to adapt He continues to believe in nano and is convinced that history will vindicate him.

R. Stanley Williams begins the interview by discussing his childhood and Sputnik's influence on his decision to study science. Then Williams described his early predisposition towards chemistry and learning from both his father and books from the library. After a positive experience in high school, Williams found himself not as prepared in comparison to his peers at Rice University. Williams worked hard to catch up, and was mentored in microwave spectroscopy by Professor Robert Curl. After obtaining his undergraduate degree, Williams worked at Hewlett-Packard for a summer through Robert Curl's connections. At HP Williams worked on photoelectron spectrometers and made some notable contributions. Next Williams worked on photoemission while pursing his graduate degree at the University of California at Berkeley. After receiving his PhD , Williams accepted a position at Bell Laboratories as staff scientist—his research there involved using photoemission to study surface chemistry. Disliking the corporate culture at Bell, Williams moved to University of California at Los Angeles after one year. At UCLA Williams started from scratch and very quickly built up a large research lab. Throughout his stay at UCLA, Williams' research topic ranged from photoemission, ion scattering, STM, and finally AFM. After an earthquake in 1994 destroyed most of his instruments, Williams returned to HP and started a research initiative that eventually evolved into the Quantum Science Research Laboratory (QSR). QSR's four research areas include: nanoelectronics; nanophotonics; nanomechanics; and nanoarchitecture. Williams concludes the interview by offering his thoughts on outside collaboration and funding, the importance of micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) to HP, and how he views QSR in relations to other research institutions.

Henry I. Smith begins the interview with a description of his childhood in New Jersey, his early aptitude in science, and his decision to pursue the sciences. After obtaining an undergraduate degree at Holy Cross College, Smith enrolled in Boston College Graduate School to pursue his interest in physics. Upon receiving his master's degree, Smith took a research position at the Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratory (AFCRL) in order to fulfill his ROTC requirement. At AFCRL he worked with top scientists and proved himself an able researcher. Smith returned to Boston College following his stint at the Air Force to pursue his PhD. His research in x-ray diffraction formed the basis for his pioneering work on x-ray lithography later in his career. While working at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Smith realized the importance of fabrication technology and submitted a grant proposal to the National Science Foundation for building a national research and fabrication center. Despite his unsuccessful proposal, Smith established a Submicron Structures Laboratory with MIT funding. Migrating to MIT's campus, Smith investigated a variety of lithography methods such as x-ray, conformable photomask, interferiometric immersion-projection, and zone plate array lithography. He concludes the interview by offering some insights on the semiconductor industry, and how to best develop a research culture that stimulates innovation. 

Mark A. Ratner begins the interview by describing his early connection to science while growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, working at the Harshaw Chemical Company as a high school summer job, and switching between various majors as an undergraduate student at Harvard University. After Harvard, Ratner attended graduate school at Northwestern University and became a postdoctoral fellow in Denmark and Munich. Upon returning to the US, Ratner began teaching at New York University for several years and worked with graduate student Avi Aviram to explore molecular rectifiers (later called molecular electronics). Ratner returned to Northwestern in 1975,this time as a faculty member in the Chemistry Department. Next Ratner reflected on collaboration with various institutions such as IBM and DARPA, and the development of molecular electronics research with Aviram. Moving on to the Gordon Research Conferences, Ratner described his experiences as an organizing chair; a member of the board of directors; and being on steering and selection (S&S) committee. Finally, Ratner concluded the interview reflecting on evolving funding practices, the importance of having a staff at research centers, and offering some thoughts on the future of nanotechnology. 

James S. Murday, at a young age, decided he wanted to be a second Einstein; he wanted to bring important change to the world. In school he always did better in the sciences and math, so he liked them more. He was most interested in the physical sciences, though he liked biology well enough to consider biophysics for a graduate program. He entered Case Institute of Technology, working with Arthur Benade. Case was across the street from Severance Hall, where music offered scope for the practical application of physics, and Murday wrote his senior thesis on the acoustics of flutes. William Gordon, Murday’s other major mentor, introduced Murday to nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). Fascinated by solid-state physics, Murday entered Cornell University, where he was research assistant for Robert Cotts. Murday’s interests expanded to include diffusion. At the time, chemistry’s new pulse techniques provided greater impetus for NMR, and Murday exploited the growing interface between chemistry and physics. When he finished his PhD he was recruited by Henry Resing into the NMR lab at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). Resing was working on protective chemistry and needed a diffusion person. Later, Murday became head of the new surface chemistry branch, an event he regards as a turning point in his career, the first step to nanoscience. Murday discusses his early experiences in the NRL, beginning with the relationship between NRL and the Office of Naval Research, where he was drafted to survey the state of surface science. He describes how he liked being a decision-maker as well as a lab worker, and further describes his experiences as the man who could see the big picture and could find reasons for various agencies and departments to join the American Vacuum Society (AVS). Murday joined the AVS, which united chemistry, materials science, and electronics. He helped organize AVS’s applied division and established the Mid-Atlantic chapter of AVS, thus enhancing his own position there and eventually being elected to the board of directors. When scanning and tunneling microscopes came along, clearly nanostructures were next. AVS officially became the first home of nanoscience. Murday influenced the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Science Foundation, both of which had funding in abundance, to get involved in nano. Usefulness of nano for unmanned aircraft drew in the Department of Defense, and all then came up with the Interagency Working Group, which hoped to promote nano to the President and Congress of the United States. It took a couple of years and two presidents, but finally Nanometer Science and Engineering Technology (NSET), a subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), was born and Murday was named Executive Secretary. Murday was also appointed Director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO), set up to support NSET. NSET has continued to expand its membership as well as to change its purpose. The character of nano has changed with this expansion and with new technology. Murday felt he was getting stale as Head of the NRL Chemistry Division and that new blood was needed, so he accepted the position of Associate Director for Physical Sciences with University of Southern California’s Office of Research Advancement in Washington, D.C. 

Nadrian C. Seeman grew up an only child in Highland Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. His father owned a fur store, and his mother had been a teacher. He was inspired by his high school biology teacher to focus on the interface between the physical and biological sciences. Seeman entered the pre-med program at the University of Chicago, but soon switched his major to biochemistry. He next obtained his PhD in crystallography from the University of Pittsburgh; then took a postdoc at Columbia University, working with Cyrus Levinthal, and a second postdoc in Alexander Rich's lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Rich discovered hybridization, which is the basis of all of Seeman's DNA nanotechnology work although he never really appreciated it at the time. Seeman began his professional career in the biology department at State University of New York at Albany. He went to Leiden, Holland, to learn to make DNA. When Neville Kallenbach left the University of Pennsylvania to become chairman of the chemistry department at New York University, he recruited Seeman to join the NYU faculty.
Seeman was influenced by the Escher print Depth to develop both three-dimensional (cube-like and similar) lattices of DNA, a process requiring branched DNA and sticky ends. This work Seeman calls "structural DNA nanotechnology," which he defines as "using the chemical information in DNA to control the three-dimensional structure of objects, lattices, and nanomechanical devices." As a result he is often referred to as the father of DNA nanotechnology. (He says he is sometimes called the father of single-stranded synthetic DNA topology because he recognized that DNA is the ideal synthetic topological component. ) He founded the International Society for Nanoscale Science, Computation, and Engineering (ISNSCE), whose members are mostly computer scientists, physicists and chemists. His biophysical work analyzing branched DNA and its ramifications was funded by National Institutes of Health. He headed a Nanotechnology Interdisciplinary Research Team (NIRT) working on DNA-based nanomechanical devices; it was funded by the National Science Foundation. He has had funding from the U. S. Navy, the U. S. Army, the Department of Energy and briefly had support from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). He feels that other applications of his work include nanoelectronics and a way to look at what happens in living systems on the molecular scale by using DNA crystals to scaffold biomacromolecules to establish their structures and interactions with other species.
Seeman shared the 2010 Kavli Prize in Nanoscience from the Norwegian Academy of Sciences with Donald Eigler for their "development of unprecedented methods to control matter on the nanoscale." Seeman, in a picture with Eigler and President Obama, is wearing his best—indeed his only—suit, which he bought in Hong Kong on his way to Oslo; he tells a humorous story of the Kavli notification phone call. Seeman founded the field, but there are now more than a hundred groups worldwide in DNA nanotechnology; Seeman names about two dozen of them. Seeman's current work deals with extending the crystallographic aspects of his DNA constructs, as well as automatic molecular weaving. Seeman concludes his interview with a discussion of his extensive travel.

Louis Girifalco begins the interview by describing his parents' support of his decision to study chemistry; he also discusses his undergraduate and graduate education. Studying applied science at the University of Cincinnati, Girifalco did his PhD research on the adhesion of ice to surfaces. The surface science thesis research naturally evolved into solid state physics when Girifalco began work for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which eventually became the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. During his career Girifalco met Robert Maddin, which ultimately led an offer of a faculty position for Girifalco at the University of Pennsylvania. At Penn, Girifalco worked in the metallurgical engineering department and reflected upon the creation of the Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter (LSRM), as well as the funding process within LRSM. Fundamentally an interdisciplinary research institute, Girifalco spent time as director of LRSM and discussed his views on the evolution of the academic science research system and on the Nano/Bio Interface Center and other current interdisciplinary research institutes.

Paul K. Hansma begins the interview by describing his childhood and early interest in building projects. After obtaining his undergraduate degree from New College, Hansma enrolled in the University of California at Berkeley to study condensed matter physics under Gene Rochlin. Upon completing his thesis on externally shunted Josephson Junctions, Hansma accepted a faculty position at the University of California at Santa Barbara and worked on squeezable electron tunneling junctions. It was at that time Hansma heard a lecture by Gerd Binnig on a new technique called scanning tunneling microscopy (STM). Frustrated by the lengthy time requirements to set up each trial, Hansma began to move away from ultra-high vacuum equipment into STMs that would function in air and liquids. Hansma divided the labor between graduate students, technician Barney Drake, and himself and began building STMs, including the first one to achieve atomic resolution in water. Then, a conference at Cancun, Mexico served as a major impetus for information exchange and helped many groups to achieve atomic resolution. Soon after, at the request of colleague, Calvin Quate, Hansma reviewed a paper on atomic force microscopy (AFM). The concept intrigued Hansma and he began to shift his research from STM to AFM. After building many iterations of AFMs, Hansma set up a research agreement with Digital Instruments' founder Virgil Elings to receive prototype instruments in exchange for consultation. Hansma concludes the interview by offering insights on the impact of the UCSB Materials Research Laboratory; thoughts on the nanotechnology community; and his current research on bone diagnostic instruments.

Alan J. Heeger begins the interview by describing his early decision to attend college and reasons behind changing his major from electrical engineering to mathematics and physics at the University of Nebraska. After obtaining his undergraduate degree, Heeger enrolled in Cornell University to pursue his interest in theoretical physics. After one year Heeger moved and attended University of California at Berkeley and switched his focus to experimental physics. Upon receiving his PhD under Alan Portis, Heeger took an assistant professorship at the University of Pennsylvania's physics department. At Penn Heeger's interests included spin-wave theory, metal physics, the Kondo problem, and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) in magnetic materials. After achieving tenure, Heeger took a sabbatical at the University of Geneva to work on metal physics. Before leaving for Geneva, Heeger was introduced to TCNQ and shifted the focus of his research on that upon returning to the United States. Then in 1973, Heeger began investigating polysulfur nitride along with Alan MacDiarmid and Hideki Shirakawa that led to seminal publications on conducting polymers. After twenty years at the University of Pennsylvania, Heeger moved to the University of California at Santa Barbara's physics department, where he continued to conduct his research and collaboration with other scientists. Heeger concludes the interview by discussing thoughts of his role as a device physicist, and how he can best move technology development forward.

Robert Maddin begins the interview by briefly describing his childhood and attending school in Hartford, Connecticut; enrolling in Brooklyn College; and decision to study metallurgical engineering at Purdue University. Maddin then served in the Armed Forces during World War II before enrolling at Yale University for graduate studies. After Yale Maddin spent several years teaching at Johns Hopkins University's mechanical engineering department before accepting a position at the University of Pennsylvania. As the head of Penn's metallurgical engineering department, Maddin was responsible for its growth over the next 2 decades. During that time Sputnik caused a surge in scientific funding and led Maddin and other professors to submit a proposal for a materials science laboratory within Penn. With the proposal a success, Maddin then described starting up the Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter (LRSM) and the role the metallurgy department played in its formation. Maddin then offered details of LRSM operations and interactions between the chemistry, physics, and metallurgy departments within the facility. After being appointed a UniversityProfessor by Penn administration, Maddin had the freedom of teaching in any department and gradually shifted his focus towards the history of science. Maddin concludes the interview by describing his second career at Harvard University's anthropology department, and his interest in metallography and the historical usage of metal. 

Alan G. MacDiarmid begins the interview by discussing his childhood in New Zealand and goes on to describe how two books, both chemistry-related, sparked his interest in chemistry. Due to economic hardship, MacDiarmid juggled working and attending the University of New Zealand part time to complete his bachelor's and master's degree. Denied a scholarship to study in England, MacDiarmid came to the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a Fulbright Scholar to study inorganic chemistry. After obtaining a M.S. in 1952 and a PhD in 1953, MacDiarmid left Wisconsin and finally got to fulfill his dream of studying at the University of Cambridge under H. J. Emeleus. Focusing on inorganic chemistry, MacDiarmid obtained a PhD in 1955 and accepted a position at the University of Pennsylvania after a brief stint as assistant lecturer in the University of St. Andrews. MacDiarmid did his most seminal work at Penn, where he remained for fifty-plus year and is still a faculty member. His early research in America was funded by Cold War related projects overseen by government funding agencies such as the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Office of Naval Research. Then on a visit to Japan, MacDiarmid serendipitously met with Hideki Shirakawa, who was doing similar research on conductive metals. Over tea they discussed their work, and MacDiarmid invited Shirakawa to Philadelphia. It was there, collaborating with another Penn faculty member, Alan Heeger, that the three published influential works that led to the discovery of conducting polymers and their shared Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2000. MacDiarmid, an inorganic chemist, emphasized the importance of inter-disciplinary research with Shirakawa, an organic chemist; and Heeger, a physicist. MacDiarmid describes how interdisciplinarity can advance current research and promote innovation. He concludes the interview by suggesting possible future research directions and the need to decrease dependency on fossil fuels.