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Stan Williams
Stan Williams

Senior HP Fellow

If college freshman Stan Williams hadn't been tucked under the wing of his college chemistry professor, he might have been just another kid with plenty of untapped potential.

"It was frightening how stupid I felt in school," Williams recalls of his undergraduate days at Rice University in Texas, where he felt unprepared for the school's intellectual rigors.

Instead, he met Dr. Bob Curl, an eventual Nobel Laureate, who became his mentor at Rice and directed him to graduate school at the University of California-Berkeley. It was "a complete life-altering experience," Williams says.

After earning his Ph.D., Williams joined AT&T Bell Labs as a member of the technical staff. He then taught chemistry at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) for 15 years. He joined HP Labs in 1995 as principal lab scientist and founded the Quantum Structures Research Initiative.

Now called Quantum Science Research (QSR), the group works primarily in the areas of nanometer-sized structures and switching. QSR has a collaborative effort with UCLA to develop a technology known as molecular electronics. The idea is to actually "grow" switches and wires via chemical reactions, and have them assemble themselves into electronic circuits.

The HP-UCLA team grabbed headlines in 1999 when it built the world's first molecular logic gate. "We gave molecular electronics a legitimacy it didn't have before," Williams says.

New approaches to electronics at the nanometer scale are crucial to the future of computing, Williams says, because within a decade or so, we will reach the limit of the number of components that can be crammed onto a conventional silicon chip. Molecular electronics has the potential to put the power of 100 workstations on a chip the size of a grain of sand.

Probing what is physically possible in computing is the type of basic research that lays the groundwork for HP's business 10 to 20 years down the road, Williams says.

"We're pointing the compass," he adds. "We know the types of things we're working on are crucial to HP's future, and we attract the best minds in the world to collaborate with us. If molecular electronics succeeds, it will represent an incredible return on investment. Even if it fails, it places us in a position to recognize what the eventual successor to silicon will be, and that has strategic value for HP."

Areas of Research:
Solid state chemistry and physics as applied to technology.

Education:
B.A. in chemical physics, Rice University, Texas
M.S. and Ph.D. in physical chemistry, University of California at Berkeley

Honors:
4 patents (one named by Technology Review as one of the "5 patents that will change business and technology" issue in 2000). 197 reviewed technical publications.

Co-author/editor of the book Nanotechnology Research Directions, the report that proposed the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which the U.S. Congress created in 2000 with $485 million initial funding.

2000 Julius Springer Award in Applied Physics (with James Heath) by Springer-Verlag publishers

2000 Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology (Experimental), shared with HP Labs computer scientist Philip Kuekes and UCLA chemist James Heath

2000 Xerox Distinguished Lecturer (first industrial winnder of this award)

1994 Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, Dreyfus Foundation

1985 Sloan Foundation Fellowship

Interests:
Cooking, from Tex-Mex to Thai; long beach walks with his wife and their dogs

Related Links:

Scientist Awarded Julius Springer Prize for Applied Physics

Quantum Science Research

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