UCLA professors James Heath, Gary Small named to Scientific American's list of 50 'visionaries'

November 18, 2002

UCLA Chemistry Professor James R. Heath has been named by Scientific American magazine as one of the "Scientific American 50" -- the magazine's first "celebration of visionaries from the worlds of research, industry and politics whose recent accomplishments point toward a brighter technological future for everyone."

UCLA and UC Berkeley, each with two professors selected, were the only universities in the country to have more than one professor honored by Scientific American. Gary W. Small, the Parlow-Solomon Professor on Aging at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, was also selected.

Heath was selected in manufacturing -- along with his colleagues at HP Labs, R. Stanley Williams, Philip Kuekes and Yong Chen -- for inventing "self-assembling nanotechnology devices that might eventually surpass those etched into chips," Scientific American wrote.

The "Scientific American 50" appears Nov. 18 in the magazine's December issue. The list of the "visionaries" is on the magazine's Web site at www.sciam.com.

"Through their many accomplishments in 2001-2002, they have demonstrated clear, progressive views of what our technological future could be, as well as the leadership, knowledge and expertise essential to realizing those visions," the magazine states.

Heath and his colleagues at UCLA and HP Labs have reported significant progress toward the creation of molecular computers that could be much cheaper, smaller and more energy-efficient than today's silicon-based computers.

"This molecular approach could have failed early on in many places, and it's not failing," Heath, a member of the California NanoSystems Institute created by UCLA and UC Santa Barbara, said recently. "We're getting there. Overall, the progress is faster than any of us expected."

Molecular-based computers "have the potential for being highly energy-efficient computational platforms that can be constructed on a variety of materials, not just silicon," Heath said.

While the research could dramatically impact the computer industry, it may also have a significant impact on very different uses of information technologies, Heath said.

Heath believes eventually there may be a new molecular manufacturing technology. "We are already beginning to apply some of these methods toward significant problems in the biological sciences, including building a direct, electronic interface to certain components of the human immune system," Heath said.

Heath is studying how to fabricate, assemble and use nanometer-scale structures, and to understand the nano-circuitry of biological systems. His research team is simultaneously developing various imaging tools that will allow them to non-invasively probe the molecular and biochemical systems that they study.

Gary W. Small, a distinguished physician, neuroscientist and psychiatrist, directs UCLA's Center on Aging. His research team was the first to report early brain function decline in people at genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease, as well as the first to discover a new PET scan compound that may provide definitive diagnosis and treatment monitoring of living Alzheimer's patients.
Editorial contributors to Scientific American, founded in 1845, have included more than 100 Nobel laureates, among them Albert Einstein, Neils Bohr, Francis Crick, Stanley Prusiner and Harold Varmus.

University of California - Los Angeles

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