Paul McEuen

Cornell University

Candidate for Chair-Elect, Nominating CommitteePaul L. McEuen

Biographical Summary

Paul L. McEuen is the Goldwin Smith Professor of Physics at Cornell University. He also serves as the Director of the Laboratory of Atomic and Solid State Physics and the Kavli Institute at Cornell for Nanoscale Science. He received his B.S. degree in Engineering Physics from the University of Oklahoma in 1985 and his Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Yale University in 1991. He joined the faculty at UC-Berkeley in 1992 and was a principal investigator at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs before coming to Cornell in 2001. He is also a novelist; his debut scientific thriller SPIRAL was published in the US in March 2011 and is currently available in 15 markets worldwide.

McEuen’s research focuses on electronic, optical, and mechanical properties of nanoscale materials. He is interested in both the science of these nanostructures and their applications in physics, materials science, chemistry, biology, and engineering. He is particularly fascinated by nanoscale forms of carbon, especially graphene sheets and single-walled carbon nanotubes. His group has probed many fundamental aspects of electron transport in carbon nanotubes, including single electron charging, non-Fermi liquid behavior, and topologically induced spin-orbit coupling. They have also probed the physical and mechanical properties of both nanotubes and graphene. For example, they have shown that a one-atom thick graphene membrane is an impenetrable barrier and functions as a high-performance drumhead resonator.  He is currently excited about building tools to interface to the nanoscale world and the construction of functional nanomachines.

McEuen has served on a number of advisory panels and committees, including the DOE BESAC Grand Challenges in Energy Subcommittee (2006), the NRC Decadal Survey Team—Condensed Matter and Materials Physics (2006), and the APS Div. of Condensed Matter Physics Executive Committee (2003-2006). He has also organized conferences and workshops, including the Kavli Futures Symposium on Cyborg Cells (2007) and the Gordon Conference on Condensed Matter Physics (2005).

Awards and honors include a Packard Foundation Fellowship, a National Young Investigator Fellowship, and the 2001 Agilent Europhysics Prize for his work on the electronic properties of carbon nanotubes. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2011.

Candidate's Statement
From my perspective, major opportunities/challenges in the coming decade for the APS include:

Expanding the Boundaries of Physics
Physics is defined by its approach to problems, not by specific topics. Many of the most exciting emerging areas stretch traditional boundaries, pushing us deeper into the fields of materials science, biology, information science, or engineering. This is not a challenge but rather a great opportunity.

Improved Communication
As Einstein said, “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.” We must more effectively communicate the content and value of our research to the public and to policymakers. This is especially important in these times of extreme budgetary and societal pressures. Simultaneously, we must resist the continual bureaucratic creep from universities and funding agencies that slows down research and makes us less effective. 

If elected to the position of Chair-Elect of the Nominating Committee, I will work to find candidates who can effectively address these issues.

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