Distinguished UH Scientist Receives Presidential Appointment

A University of Houston professor whose breakthrough work on superconductivity made him one of the America’s most renowned researchers was appointed this month to the President’s Committee on the National Medal of Science.

The White House announced last week that Paul C.W. Chu would be among the dozen distinguished scientists chosen by the president to evaluate nominees for the award, the nation’s highest honor for scientific achievement.

Chu, a physics professor and the T.L.L. Temple Chair of Science, received the medal in 1988 for leading a team of researchers in the discovery of high temperature superconductivity.

That breakthrough sparked new research that continues to this day as scientists study high temperature superconductivity and apply it to the nation’s electrical, medical, transportation, and communications needs.

At the forefront of the effort is the Texas Center for Superconductivity at the University of Houston (TcSUH), which builds on Chu’s work and is one of the largest superconductivity research hubs in the U.S. Chu is a former director of the center. He is currently president of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, where he spends part of the year.

As a recipient of the science medal, Chu said he considers the task of evaluating future laureates a special honor.

“The medal represents a token but significant gesture in our national commitment to science,” Chu said.

Chu will serve on the Medal of Science committee through 2009. Since the award was established in 1959 to honor outstanding contributions to the hard sciences, more than 400 of the nation’s best scientists and engineers have been named science laureates.

Chu’s appointment is the latest in a long list of accolades for his groundbreaking work. In 1990 he was named Best Researcher in the U.S. by U.S. News and World Report magazine and he has received several honorary professorships and awards. He was also the 2000 recipient of the Esther Farfel Award, UH’s highest faculty honor.

“Dr. Chu’s pioneering research and his dedication to teaching and service have made him one of our university’s most exceptional scientists,” said John Bear, dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. “This latest honor is another tribute to the groundbreaking work done over the years by Chu and his fellow researchers at UH.” 

A native of China, Chu earned an undergraduate degree in Taiwan, a master’s degree at Fordham University in New York and a doctorate in physics at the University of California at San Diego. He joined the UH faculty in 1979.

Chu has also served as a consultant to Los Alamos National Laboratory and the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. His research, which extends beyond superconductivity to magnetism and dielectrics, has resulted in the publication of more than 500 papers in academic journals.