2010 William Spitzer lecture commemorates professor emeritus of materials science and physics
Photo: Sumio Iijima (second from right) with (left to right) Chongwu Zhou, Ed Goo, and Priya Vashista
By Leyla Ezdinli
Sumio Iijima, professor of materials science and engineering at Meijo University in Nagoya, Japan, delivered the keynote lecture in the Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science to a full house at USC on March 22, 2010.
Faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates from materials science, physics, nanotechnology, and other fields crowded into the auditorium to hear the renowned scientist, who is credited with the discovery of the carbon nanotube (CNT) in 1991. Prior to his 1991 publication on CNTs, Iijima spent years developing a high-resolution electron microscope capable of observing material at the level of the atom.
Cylindrical arrangements of carbon molecules with unique properties that have helped to shape the development of nanotechnology and nanoscience, CNTs are only a few nanometers in diameter. Efficient carriers of electricity and heat, CNTs have many scientific and commercial applications, including pharmaceutical drug delivery systems, electronics, fuel cells, and composite materials.
In his talk, titled "Challenge to Seeing Atomic Structures of Nanomaterials on the Electron Microscope," Iijima addressed the role of technology in the ability of researchers to perceive the carbon nanotube. Iijima explained to the audience that, although other researchers had observed the nanostructure as early as 1952, it was the high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM) that made it possible for him to appreciate the significance of the CNT.
"Professor Iijima's work has significantly influenced the field of nanotechnology. He has won dozens of prizes internationally, including the prestigious Kavli prize, awarded by the Kavli Foundation, the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, and the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research," said Priya Vashishta, professor of chemical engineering & materials science, physics, and computer science.
"I am happy that so many students were able to hear Professor Iijima speak. It is so important for students to have a historical appreciation for scientific discoveries, as well as the trials and tribulations of scientific research," said Andrea Armani, assistant professor of chemical engineering and materials science and of electrical engineering/electrophysics in the Viterbi School of Engineering.
"Nanotechnology is an emerging field, and there is a lot that we still don't understand. This can sometimes be missed in the classroom," said Armani.
The Spitzer lecture is named for William Spitzer, a former chair of the Department of Materials Science, known for his work in solid-state physics and for being the first person in USC's history to have served at every level of academic administration--as department chair; division dean; dean of the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences; and provost. In 1989, Spitzer received the Presidential Medallion, the highest honor bestowed by the university on a member of the USC community.
"I am grateful to the sponsors of this event, including the Spitzer Lecture, the Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science at Viterbi, Daniel Dapkus, director of the Center for Energy Nanoscience and Technology, and Randolph Hall, vice provost for research advancement," said Vashishta.