Paul (Ching-Wu) Chu (1941– )
“There is an unchanging rule in this universe, and that is this world is forever changing and at an increasing rate.”
–Paul (Ching-Wu) Chu
National Medal of Science (NMS) recipient in 1988 “for his wide-ranging contributions in achieving stable superconductivity at -290 degrees Fahrenheit, above the critical temperature of liquid nitrogen (-321 degrees F), and for his participation in the discovery of another superconducting compound, this one stable at a higher temperature (-243 degrees F) and not using rare-earth elements.”
Paul (Ching-Wu) Chu was born in the Hunan province of China and grew up in Taiwan. After studying at the National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan, he came to the United States and earned his Ph.D. at the University of California, San Diego, in 1968. Chu came to the University of Houston (UH) in 1979 because, as he put it, “that was the boom time of Houston, and nothing seemed to be impossible in Houston.” Chu’s expectations were confirmed--his revolutionary research on superconductivity has significant implications for increasing energy efficiency.
In addition to his position at the UH, Chu served as president of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology from 2001-2009. He believes in the power of strong universities with passionate faculty and students.
Chu’s own passion for his research compels him to work seven days a week, 10 to 12 hours per day. Though he does not expect his students to do the same, Chu said, “I never feel that it is very hard, because that is where my heart is.”
In a recent reflection about receiving the NMS, Chu said that he is “still in awe of joining the list of scientific giants in the US, especially, in company with my former professor Walter Kohn and his former professor Norman Ramsey in 1988.” In 2007, Chu was asked to serve on the NMS presidential committee, where he had the privilege of nominating future NMS recipients.
Being foreign born, Chu remarked that it was a unique honor to serve on this committee. “It shows that the U.S. is indeed a land of opportunity for all,” Chu said, “and has also given me the opportunity to realize the unmatched talent pool of U.S. scientists to guarantee the preeminent U.S. position in the world for the new century.”
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