Paul K. Hansma

Born: April 28, 1946 | Salt Lake City, UT, US

Upon completing his thesis on externally shunted Josephson Junctions, Paul 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.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0345
No. of pages: 73
Minutes: 308

Interview Sessions

Cyrus C. M. Mody
2 May and 7 August 2006
Santa Barbara, California

Abstract of Interview

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.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1967 New College BA Physics
1968 University of California, Berkeley MA Physics
1972 University of California, Berkeley PhD Physics

Professional Experience

University of California, Santa Barbara

1972 to 1976
Assistant Professor, Physics Department
1976 to 1980
Associate Professor, Physics Department
1980
Professor, Physics Department
1994 to 1997
Co-Chair of Physics Department

Nanotechnology Publication

1989
Editorial Board Member

Arizona State University

1997
Advisory Board for Interactive Nano-visualization in Science and Engineering Education (INVSEE) program

Review of Scientific Instruments

1999
Editorial Board member

Honors

Year(s) Award
1964

Presidential Scholar (presented by President Johnson)

1967 to 1971

Fellow, National Science Foundation

1975 to 1977

Fellow, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

1983

Professor of the Year, University of California, Santa Barbara

1988

Distinguished Teaching Award, University of California, Santa Barbara

1988

International Advisory Committee, Scanning Tunneling Microscopy

1989

Fellow, American Physical Society

1990

Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science

1990 to 1993

Executive Committee, Division of Chemical Physics, American Physical Society

1991

Paul E. Klopsteg Award, American Association of Physics Teachers

1993

Max Planck Research Award

2000

Biological Physics Prize, American Physical Society

2004

Fellow, Institute of Physics

Table of Contents

Family History and Early Life Experiences
1

Aspiration to be an athlete during childhood. Injury and shift towards the sciences during high school. Early proficiency in tinkering and building projects.

Undergraduate Education
3

Deciding to major in physics and attending New College. Difficulties with attending a newly-founded college. Learning from mentors and deciding to go to graduate school.

Graduate Education
6

Attending UC Berkeley and studying under Gene Rochlin. The influence of John Clarke and studying superconducting Josephson effect. Being part of the superconductivity community and learning its dynamics. Working with Josephson tunneling junctions.

Early Work at UC Santa Barbara
11

Learning about scanning tunneling microscopes (STM) from Gerd Binnig. Fostering multidisciplinary research and collaborations. Squeezable electron tunneling junction work.

Building STMs
22

Shifting research direction away from ultra high vacuum and into air and liquid. Development of the STM community. Challenges and division of labor in building an STM. Role of graduate students and post-docs. First conference in Cancun, Mexico. Information exchange between pioneering researchers. DNA research using STM.

Working on atomic force microscopes (AFM)
41

Reviewing a paper for Calvin Quate that lead to interest in AFM. Building iterations of instruments. Gathering student feedbacks. Grants and funding sources. Setting up research agreement with Virgil Elings and Digital Instruments to commercialize AFMs. Spreading the use of AFM through post-docs from different disciplines.

Concluding Thoughts
66

Impact of the UCSB Materials Research Laboratory. Thoughts on the nanotechnology community. Shifting research direction towards bone diagnostic instruments.

Notes
68
Index
70

About the Interviewer

Cyrus C. M. Mody

Cyrus Mody is an assistant professor of history at Rice University. Prior to that position he was the manager of the Nanotechnology and Innovation Studies programs in the Center for Contemporary History and Policy at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. He has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical and materials engineering from Harvard University and a PhD in science and technology studies from Cornell. He was the 2004–2005 Gordon Cain Fellow at CHF before becoming a program manager. Mody has published widely on the history and sociology of materials science, instrumentation, and nanotechnology.