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Spring 2001

SMALL SCIENCE
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Step two in the process was to find somebody to lead the effort. Peccei says the choice at UCLA was clear: Jim Heath, a rising young star in nanotechnology. Heath had earned his Ph.D. at Rice University working with Richard Smalley, Harry Kroto and Bob Curl on the experiment that earned the latter three the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1996. He had been at UCLA since 1994, where he has worked on nanotechnology, quantum dots, artificial solids and the technology that would allow all these phenomena to be chemically synthesized - grown like a biological organism, in effect, from the bottom up rather than etched by computer, as modern silicon technology is, from the top down. "He's probably the person who has the broadest talents and imagination," says Peccei, "and I felt he would provide the necessary scientific leadership. And when Jim speaks, people listen to him. He was an absolute key."

At UCSB, Heath's counterpart would be Evelyn Hu. Before coming to UCSB in 1984, Hu worked for 10 years at Bell Laboratories on the science of nanostructures in superconducting technologies. At UCSB, she studied semiconductor technology and also worked to understand the electrical properties of materials at a nanoscale. For the past six years, as director of a National Science Foundation-funded Science and Technology Center at UCSB, she had been concentrating on "quantized electronic structures." While Hu knew Heath by his work and reputation, she had never met him. The next six months, she says, would turn out to be an "intense bonding experience."

"We had our first meeting in the beginning of April with most of the people who would be involved," says Hu. "The preproposal was due around the beginning of May, and they would tell us at the end of June which six of the 11 preproposals had been chosen to go on. The proposals were then due on October 6, although they originally told us the beginning of September. That was the time frame we had to work with."

The next three months would be spent writing and traveling. Their preproposal was among the final six chosen, but it had to be dramatically expanded and honed. The reviewers also had doubts about whether Heath and Hu had sufficient administrative experience to deal with a multi-hundred-million-dollar institute, as the CNSI would be. As a result, says Peccei, it was decided to seek an administrator from outside of the institutions. The choice was Martha Krebs, a physicist who was running the Office of Science in the Department of Energy, which meant, among other things, that she oversaw the DOE's national laboratory system. Peccei had known Krebs for years, and when he asked her to be the administrative director of the CNSI, she readily agreed.

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