R. Stanley Williams

Born: October 27, 1951 | Kodiak, AK, US

R. Stanley Williams begins his oral history interview by discussing Sputnik's influence on his decision to study science. After a positive experience in high school, Williams found himself not as prepared in comparison to his peers at Rice University, where he was mentored in microwave spectroscopy by Professor Robert Curl. After obtaining his undergraduate degree, Williams worked at Hewlett-Packard on photoelectron spectrometers. Williams worked on photoemission while pursing his graduate degree at the University of California, Berkeley. After receiving his PhD, Williams accepted a position at Bell Laboratories as staff scientist. Disliking the corporate culture at Bell, Williams moved to University of California, Los Angeles and very quickly built up a large research lab, which studied photoemission, ion scattering, STM, and finally AFM. After the 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]: nano electronics; nano photonics; nano mechanics; and nano architecture. 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.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0338
No. of pages: 64
Minutes: 253

Interview Sessions

Cyrus C. M. Mody
14 March 2006
Palo Alto, California

Abstract of Interview

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.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1974 Rice University BA Chemical Physics
1976 University of California, Berkeley MS Physical Chemistry
1978 University of California, Berkeley PhD Physical Chemistry

Professional Experience

AT&T Bell Laboratories

1978 to 1980
Technical Staff

University of California, Los Angeles

1980 to 1984
Assistant Professor, Chemistry
1984 to 1986
Associate Professor, Chemistry
1986 to 1995
Professor, Chemistry

Hewlett-Packard

1995
Quantum Science Research group, Founding Director

Hewlett-Packard Laboratories

1995
Senior HP Fellow

Honors

Year(s) Award
2000

Julius Springer Award for Applied Physics

2000

Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology

2002

Scientific American 50 Top Technology Leaders

2003

Herman Bloch Medal for Industrial Research

2004

Joel Birnbaum Prize

2005

Scientific American 50 Top Technology Leaders

2007

Glenn T. Seaborg Medal

Table of Contents

Family History and Early Life Experiences
1

Early disposition towards science. Growing up in South Texas and interest in chemistry.

Education
3

High school experience. Undergraduate degree at Rice University. Catching up in classes and studying privately. Being mentored by Robert Curl. Summer position at Hewlett-Packard.

Graduate work at University of California at Berkeley
13

Photoemission work and controversies. Stanford Synchrotron facility experience. Funding and fellowships.

Working at Bell Laboratories
20

Deciding to be a staff scientist at Bell Labs. Research on photoemission, ion scattering, and STM. Thoughts on corporate politics at Bell Labs. Transition to UCLA.

Career at University of California at Los Angeles
27

Building a new lab and learning to write proposals and grants. Difference between industry and academia. Continuing STM research. Expanding research group laboratory space. Efforts to start a research center. Dealing with funding problems and changing research direction. Constructing STM and AFMs. Learning about bulk thermodynamics.

Career at Hewlett-Packard
44

Northridge Earthquake destroying UCLA lab equipment. Accepting HP Lab offer. Setting up instruments and research group. Agilent spinoff and last minute decision to stay with HP. Difference between HP and Bell Labs and thoughts on technology transfer. Origins of the Quantum Science Research Group (QSR) and its research areas. Outside collaborations and funding.

Concluding Thoughts
57

MEMS research and view of QSR in relations to other research institutions.

Notes
59
Index
60

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.