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14 December 2009 NANO Magazine - Issue 7

Interview: James Gimzewski

Professor James Gimzewski
Professor James Gimzewski.
Image Credit: NANO Magazine.

Professor James Gimzewski was one of the first scientists to image molecules with the scanning tunneling microscope and holds a Guinness World Record for creating the world’s smallest calculator. Today his research interests span science and art. Ottilia Saxl speaks to professor Gimzewski about his mission to achieve the impossible.

Q How did you become a 'nanoscientist'?

A I morphed into one...starting at IBM Zürich Research Laboratories in 1983. I was working with the Scanning Tunneling Microscope that was invented there. This led me to see the first molecules in real space and then manipulate them. Many experiments on the nanoscale followed and one day everyone was talking about nanotechnology.

Q What has made you so passionate about your subject?

A My passion comes from the fact that it’s all about a new way of science and technology. One can let creativity, imagination and curiosity lead in the scientific experiments. There are no walls or divisions between the disciplines. It’s a space where everything is connected.

Q What has been the influence of IBM on your work, in terms of providing inspiration, opening up new horizons?

A The influence of IBM is immense and has a lot to do with the people that helped and inspired new ways to think about science. People like Heini Röhrer, Christoph Gerber and Gerd Binning who disregarded established paths and that community of science that holds onto the past. IBM had at that time a very special energy field created by those people and also by Alex Muller and Georg Bednorz.

Q What drew you to UCLA?

A I was aggressively perused by UCLA over a period of years. I needed a change in environment. IBM, I could see, was also moving away from hardware to services and solutions. It was meant to be. The establishment of the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) is the real attractor that got me into UCLA.

Q What has the States to offer nanoscientists compared with Europe?

A The States is a big place. To me, California has optimism, enthusiasm and is not trapped in history or institution. I guess I like that for I still find Europe a bit oppressive and depressive at times, although I love Europe.

Q What is your work focusing on now?

A My work is focused on several things. First nanomedicine, where we use nanotechnologies in a clinical setting and work with cells from patients, no cell lines. The other area is Art/Science – the space between the two creates a metadisciplinary situation. I believe this hybrid will be the most powerful and influential force over the next 50 years that humankind has seen.

Q What would you still like to achieve?

A I would like to achieve the impossible – essentially, to link peoples minds to be in a single space, not physically, but totally ephemeral. I believe I may guide that direction.

Q What do you think are the major challenges faced by nanoscientists?

A There is only one major challenge. What can we create that is revolutionary, that is not a smaller something we know, that is not an extension? Something totally revolutionary that changes people’s everyday lives in a major and positive manner.

Source: NANO Magazine - Issue 7 /...

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