November 14, 2000
UCSB Strikes Gold
Two Professors Win Nobel Prizes in Physics and in Chemistry
At 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, October 10, UCSB hosted a press conference for the two professors who had awoken to phone calls informing them they had won Nobel Prizes, one in Physics and the other in Chemistry.
Among the many media accounts were some that noted the physical resemblance between the two men. The front-page articles in the Los Angeles Times described the winners "both sporting white beards and black-rimmed glasses."
Herbert Kroemer and Alan Heeger have more in common than their looks and 2000 Nobel Prizes. They are both experts on materials. Kroemer won for creating the theoretical underpinnings for heterostructure semiconductors. Heeger won for the creation of plastics that conduct.
Both men also hold appointments in the Materials Department in the College of Engineering. Kroemer won the Physics Prize, but his UCSB appointment straddles two Engineering Departments: Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) as well as Materials. Heeger, who won in Chemistry, is a member of the Physics as well as the Materials Department. So neither winner is a member of the UCSB departments that bears the same name as the prize he has won. Remarkably, UCSB's other recent Nobel winner, Walter Kohn, is a physicist who was awarded the Chemistry Prize in 1998.
This mismatch in names between prizes and departments shows how quintessentially interdisciplinary is the approach to research and education at UCSB.
Chancellor Henry Yang introduced the winners at the press conference, "This is a glorious day in UC Santa Barbara's history," he said. "To have two faculty colleagues win two Nobel Prizes-one in Physics and one in Chemistry on the same day--is truly wonderful news for UCSB. I cannot find the right adjective to describe the amount of happy energy that flows around campus today. It is a testament to the interdisciplinary nature of so much of the research of this campus. Pioneering research that cuts across the disciplines has become the hallmark of research at UC Santa Barbara."