​Professor Steven G Louie. Photo: Michael Nystås

Get to know the Jubilee Professor Steven G Louie

Professor Steven G Louie, UC Berkeley, USA, has been honored with a Jubilee Professorship at Chalmers in 2017. He is hosted by the Department of Microtechnology and Nanoscience – MC2 – and paid his first visit during the professorship a few months ago. We got the opportunity to ask him a few questions.

Steven G Louie is a professor of physics at University of California since 1984, where he has his own group of graduate and postdoc researchers.
"My group is in the size of about 12 to 15 people totally. At this moment I have 8 students and a couple of visitors. We're working on various different projects", says Steven G Louie, who is a very polite man.
 
Professor Louie was born 1949 in the city Taishan in China. Taishan lies close to Hong Kong.
"My family moved to Hong Kong when I was five years old, and we eventually immigrated to US when I was 11. That means that I basically grew up in California. I am much more of an American than I am Chinese", he says.
 
After going through the American public school system, the young Steven G Louie went to the University of California for his undergraduate and graduate studies. He got his PhD in 1976.
"I have enjoyed science and math very much since I was basically a teenager, and therefore decided to go into physics. That has been a great decision. I have enjoyed my career a lot."
 
What's your research interests?
"I'm in so-called condensed matter physics, which is to understand the behaviour and the properties of materials. My research interests are pretty bored... covering a number of different classes of materials going anything from semiconductors to metals to superconductors."
"Nowadays I am very much interested in understanding the properties of nanostructure materials and so-called reduced dimensional systems like graphene, which is a twodimensional material basically, and the third dimension is only one atomic dimension thick. My interest and my expertise is basically to try to understand the properties of these materials through the theoretical analysis and computational studies from first principles. That sometimes involve very new and deep theoretical concepts, but at the same time largescale computations, because we want to make connection with real experiments done on those materials."
 
In 2016, Steven G Louie became the founder and director of a new center for computational studies at Berkeley, The Center for Computational Study of Excited-State Phenomena in Energy Materials.
"Yes, it is a very exciting piece of item. It will be quite exciting to bring a group of people together to work on this kind of theoretical computations of materials", he says.
 
In his spare time Steven G Louie likes to play tennis and work in his garden:
"Yes, I enjoy playing tennis and also gardening – that's my two favourite occupations out of physics activities. I also have five grandchildren, they give me a lot of enjoyment. The oldest is six, the youngest one is only five months. I have three children of my own; one boy and two girls", he says.

Steven G Louie with his MC2 hosts, head of department Mikael Fogelström, to the left, and Professor Tord Claeson, to the right.
 
Now Steven G Louie is also a proud Jubilee Professor at Chalmers, along with three other renowned colleagues from universities in Europe and USA. He regards the appointment as "very exciting".
"I think it's an honor to be chosen to be a Jubilee Professor. Chalmers is a very well-known world-class university and research center, so I look forward to the opportunity to be able to get to know the people here better and find out more indepth the activities and possible setups and collaborations. The main purpose of this trip is basically to get to know the people here in the department and also explore the possibilities of finding something of mutual interest to work on."
 
Do you remember where you were when you got the message about this appointment?
"I think I was in Berkeley and got an email from professor Tord Claeson. But it was no phone call, I don't remember getting a phone call", he says with a light smile, pronouncing Professor Tord Claeson's surname "Klejson".
"I know people here and I have interacted with for example Professor Claeson earlier, but I have never had a kind of formal collaboration setup of, say, joint projects together. That's why I find it exciting to come here, just trying to get that started."
 
He is not aware of any formal ceremony at which he will receive his jubilee professorship:
"I am not sure of that, but I am told that the president of the university would like to meet me, not during this visit but at my next visit, because apparently he is out of the country right now."
 
Steven G Louie paid his first visit to Chalmers and MC2 in his new role as Jubilee Professor in late March and early April, and spent a full week in Gothenburg. He likes the city much:
"I have only been here for two days but I enjoy it very much. Gothenburg is very nice, it's a goodsized city, not too large but at the same time very friendly. And the food is good!"
 
How was your journey to Gothenburg?
"It was fine, it was long but fine. My wife is with me this time, and we flew from San Fransisco, California. She is sightseeing somewhere today, enjoying herself."
The last time he visited Gothenburg was at a conference on nanotubes around ten years ago.
 
Steven G Louie's first week at MC2 had an extremely busy schedule, and we were lucky to get to meet him for this interview. The professor was going to meet and discuss with many people. Among many other things he gave a talk at the annual Göteborg Mesoscopic Lecture in Kollektorn at MC2 on 30 March.
 
Are you given the opportunity to see the labs and so on?
"Yes, I will be able to see the labs, but the last two days I have been meeting mostly individually with a couple of people together to discuss the latest and the greatest that's been done here in this building. I find that fascinating and a lot of cutting-edge research has been done here."
 
Will you come back more times during the year?
"Yes, my plan in the next couple of years will be basically to try to find time to come for maybe a few times as part of this jubilee professorship, and hopefully there's some fruitful collaborations setup in an even longer term association", says Steven G Louie.
 
At MC2, Mikael Fogelström, head of department, along with the Applied Quantum Physics Laboratory, will take good care of the professor.
 
The Jubilee Professors of 2017 are Steven G Louie, UC Berkeley, USA, Virpi Kristiina Tuunainen, Aalto University, Finland, Robert Sinclair, Stanford University, USA, and Konstantin Neyman, Universitat de Barcelona, Spain.
 
Text and photo: Michael Nystås
 
Facts about Steven G Louie
Steven G Louie is a researcher within condensed matter physics and materials science. He received his Ph.D. in physics from UC Berkeley in 1976. After having worked at the IBM Watson Research Center, Bell Laboratories, and University of Pennsylvania, he joined the UC Berkeley faculty in 1980. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences (2005), fellow of the American Physical Society (1985), senior faculty scientist and Theory Facility Director of the Molecular Foundry at LBNL, and editor of the journal Solid State Communications. He has been awarded a Sloan Fellowship (1980), a Guggenheim Fellowship (1989), two Miller Professorships (1986, 1995), the U.S. Department of Energy Award for Sustained Outstanding Research in Solid State Physics (1993), the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Outstanding Performance Award (1995), the Aneesur Rahman Prize for Computational Physics of the American Physical Society (1996), the Davisson-Germer Prize in Surface Physics of the American Physical Society (1999), and shared with M. L. Cohen the Foresight Institute Richard P. Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology (2003). He is identified by the Web of Science as one of the most highly cited researchers in physics.
 
 
Jubilee Professorship at Chalmers
When Chalmers in 1979 celebrated 150 years, the government gave a Jubilee Professorship at Chalmers as a gift. The criteria to be met is that the holders will add Chalmers new skills and that the University's international relations will be strengthened. The chair can be divided into different time intervals during the year and held by different professors. They are designated by the President of Chalmers.

Published: Fri 04 Aug 2017. Modified: Wed 06 Sep 2017