Paul Alivisatos (born 1959) is an American scientist of Greek descent who has been hailed as a pioneer in nanomaterials development, and is an internationally recognized authority on the fabrication of nanocrystals and their use in biomedical and renewable energy applications. He is ranked fifth among the world's 100 top chemists in the list released by Thomson Reuters. In 2009, he was named the Director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and in 2014 he was named a laureate for the National Medal of Science.
Alivisatos is also University of California Berkeley’s Samsung Distinguished Chair in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Research, and holds professorships in UC Berkeley’s materials science and chemistry departments. In addition, he directs the Kavli Energy Nanosciences Institute (ENSI), a new institute on the UC Berkeley campus launched by the Kavli Foundation to explore the application of nanoscience to sustainable energy.
Paul Alivisatos was born in Chicago, Illinois, where he lived until the age of 10, when his family moved to Athens, Greece. Alivisatos has said of his years in Greece that it was a great experience for him because he had to learn the Greek language and culture then catch up with the more advanced students. "When I found something very interesting it was sometimes a struggle for me to understand it the very best that I could," he has said of that experience. "That need to work harder became an important motivator for me." Alivisatos returned to the United States to attend the University of Chicago in the late seventies.
Training and Career
In 1981, Alivisatos earned a B.A. with honors in chemistry from the University of Chicago. In 1986, he received a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, where he worked under Charles Harris. His Ph.D. thesis concerned the photophysics of electronically excited molecules near metal and semiconductor surfaces. He then joined AT&T Bell Labs working with Louis E. Brus, and began research in the field of nanotechnology.
Alivisatos returned to UC Berkeley in 1988 as an assistant professor of chemistry, becoming associate professor in 1993 and professor in 1995. He served as Chancellor’s Professor from 1998-2001, and added an appointment as a professor of materials science and engineering in 1999.
Alivisatos’ affiliation with Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (or Berkeley Lab) began in 1991 when he joined the staff of the Materials Sciences Division. From 2005 to 2007 Alivisatos served as Berkeley Lab’s Associate Laboratory Director for the Physical Sciences area. In 2008, he served as Deputy Lab Director under Berkeley Lab Director Steven Chu, and then as interim director when Chu stepped down to become the Secretary of Energy. He was named the seventh Director of the Berkeley Lab on November 19, 2009, by the University of California Board of Regents on the recommendation of UC President Mark Yudof and with the concurrence of the U.S. Department of Energy.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu noted that Alivisatos is "an incredible scientist with incredible judgment on a variety of issues. He’s level-headed and calm, and he has an ability to inspire people…[and he can] take projects from material science to real-world applications."
Alivisatos is an internationally recognized authority on nanochemistry and a pioneer in the synthesis of semiconductor quantum dots and multi-shaped artificial nanostructures. Further, he is a world expert on the chemistry of nanoscale crystals; one of his papers (Science, 271: 933-937, 1996) has been cited over 9,100 times. He is also an expert on how these can be applied, for example as biological markers (e.g., Science, 281: 2013-16, 1998; a paper cited over 7,400 times). In addition, his use of DNA in this area (DNA nanotechnology) has shown the surprising versatility of this molecule. He has used it to direct crystal growth and create new materials, as in Nature, 382: 609-11, 1996, and even to measure nanoscale distances (see Nature Nanotechnology, 1: 47-52, 2006).
He is widely recognized as being the first to demonstrate that semiconductor nanocrystals can be grown into complex two-dimensional shapes, as opposed to simple one-dimensional spheres. Alivisatos proved that controlling the growth of nanocrystals is the key to controlling both their size and shape. This achievement altered the nanoscience landscape and paved the way for a slew of new potential applications, including biomedical diagnostics, revolutionary photovoltaic cells, and LED materials.
Nanocrystals are aggregates of anywhere from a few hundred to tens of thousands of atoms that combine into a crystalline form of matter known as a "cluster." Typically a few nanometers in diameter, nanocrystals are larger than molecules but smaller than bulk solids and therefore often exhibit physical and chemical properties somewhere in between. Given that a nanocrystal is virtually all surface and no interior, its properties can vary considerably as the crystal grows in size.
Prior to Alivisatos’ research, all non-metal nanocrystals were dot-shaped, meaning they were essentially one-dimensional. No techniques had been reported for making two-dimensional or rod-shaped semiconductor nanocrystals that would also be of uniform size. However, in a landmark paper that appeared in the March 2, 2000 issue of the journal Nature, Alivisatos reported on techniques used to select the size but vary the shapes of the nanocrystals produced. This was hailed as a major breakthrough in nanocrystal fabrication because rod-shaped semiconductor nanocrystals can be stacked to create nano-sized electronic devices.
The rod-shaped nanocrystal research, coupled with earlier work led by Alivisatos in which it was shown that quantum dots or "qdots"–nanometer-sized crystal dots (spheres a few billionths of a meter in size)– made from semiconductors such as cadmium selenide can emit multiple colors of light depending upon the size of the crystal, opened the door to using nanocrystals as fluorescent probes for the study of biological materials, biomedical research tools and aids to diagnosis, and as light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Alivisatos went on to use his techniques to create an entirely new generation of hybrid solar cells that combined nanotechnology with plastic electronics.
Technology Transfer and Translational Impact
Alivisatos is the founding scientist of Quantum Dot Corporation, a company that makes crystalline nanoscale tags that are used in the study of cell behavior. (Quantum Dot is now part of Life Technologies.) He also founded the nanotechnology company Nanosys, and Solexant, a photovoltaic start-up that has since restarted as Siva Power. His research has led to the development of applications in range of industries, including bioimaging (for example, the use of quantum dots for luminescent labeling of biological tissue); display technologies (his quantum dot emissive film is found in the Kindle Fire HDX tablet); and renewable energy (solar applications of quantum dots).
More than 20 as of 2014
Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (also Berkeley Lab)
Under Alivisatos’ leadership, Berkeley Lab has embarked upon an ambitious period of strategic scientific infrastructure renewal, and shifted its priorities to the more interdisciplinary areas of renewable energy and climate-change research. During his tenure, the Lab began construction on new buildings for computational research, buildings efficiency, solar energy research, and biological science. During this time, the Lab also cleared the legacy Bevatron site and has partially cleared and is working to finish cleaning the "Old Town" site. This has left the Lab better able to contribute to the Department of Energy’s mission today, and with room for potential growth on brownfield sites in the future. In addition, Alivisatos has proactively invigorated Berkeley Lab’s safety culture, elevated the Lab’s community outreach and operational efficiency efforts, and is currently working to build a more diverse and inclusive community within the lab. On March 23, 2015 Alvisatos announced that he is stepping down as Director when a replacement is identified.
As he develops these initiatives across the Lab, Alivisatos has remained focused on integrating the Lab into the nation’s innovation ecosystem, especially in the areas of energy and the environment. While some of the groundwork for this integration was laid by former Director Steve Chu, Alivisatos has led efforts to leverage the wide range of scientific capabilities at Berkeley Lab with a variety of industry partners and entrepreneurs. These public/private sector collaborations have resulted in technology transfer for industries as diverse as automobiles and medicine, and have contributed to an increased speed of development in manufacturing and renewable energy.
In addition to his emphasis on innovation and outreach to the private sector, Alivisatos is also working to create a more closely connected network of the U.S. Dept. of Energy's 17 national labs. He serves as the chair of the National Lab Directors Council, and has encouraged greater alignment and collaboration across the labs on such issues as diversity and workforce development.
Alivisatos has also been outspoken on the issue of basic science funding at the federal level and America’s ability to stay competitive in the areas global scientific research and development.
Awards and Honors
Presidential Young Investigator Award 1991-1995;
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation fellowship, 1991;
ACS Exxon Solid State Chemistry Fellowship, 1991;
Coblentz Award for Advances in Molecular Spectroscopy, 1994;
Wilson Prize at Harvard;
Department of Energy Award for Outstanding Scientific Accomplishment in Materials Chemistry, 1994;
Materials Research Society Outstanding Young Investigator Award, 1995;
Department of Energy Award for Sustained Outstanding Research in Materials Chemistry, 1997;
Colloid and Surface Chemistry American Chemical Society Award, 2005;
E. O. Lawrence Award, 2006;
Eni Italgas prize for Energy and Environment, 2006;
The Rank Prize (Optoelectronics), 2006;
University of Chicago’s Distinguished Alumni Award (Professional Achievement), 2006;
Kavli Distinguished Lectureship in Nanoscience, Materials Research Society, 2008;
Nanoscience Prize, International Society for Nanoscale Science, Computation & Engineering, 2009;
Medaglia teresiana, University of Pavia, (2010);
Linus Pauling Award, 2011;
Von Hippel Award, Materials Research Society, 2011;
Wolf Prize in Chemistry, 2012;
National Medal of Science, 2014.
ACS Award in the Chemistry of Materials, 2014;
Axion Award, Hellenic American Professional Society, 2015;
Spiers Memorial Award, Royal Society of Chemistry, 2015;
Dan David Prize for the Future, 2016.
In addition to those listed above, Alivisatos has held fellowships with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Physical Society (1996), and the American Chemical Society. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Alivisatos is the founding editor of Nano Letters, a publication of the American Chemical Society. He currently serves on the Senior Editorial Board of Science (2011–present). He has also served on the Editorial Advisory Boards of ACS Nano, the Journal of Physical Chemistry, Chemical Physics, the Journal of Chemical Physics, and Advanced Materials.
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