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Oral history interview with Paul K. Hansma

  • 2006-May-02
  • 2006-Aug-07

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.

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