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Honorary Degree Orations
Professor Paul Ching-Wu Chu
Public Orator, Professor Rachel Thomson presented the Honorary Graduand at the Degree Ceremony held on Thursday 19 July at 3.00pm
Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Honorary Graduands, Graduands, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Professor Paul Ching-Wu Chu is the President of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and additionally holds the TLL Temple Chair of Science at the University of Houston, USA. He is a distinguished and eminent scientist who has pioneered developments in the field of superconductivity.
Born in Hunan, China in 1941, Professor Chu received his Bachelors degree in 1962 from Cheng-Kung University in Taiwan, followed by a Masters at Fordham University, New York in 1965 and a PhD in physics from the University of California, San Diego.
He then spent two years at the famous Bell Laboratories, from where he moved into academia at Cleveland State University, and subsequently was appointed Professor of Physics at the University of Houston in 1979. Whilst at Houston, he created the successful Texas Center for Superconductivity.
For many years Prof Chu has pursued his dream of discovering materials which exhibit superconductivity at room temperature. Superconductors are materials which can carry electric current without resistance. However, this usually occurs only below a critical temperature, which means that such materials need to be cooled to very low temperatures, limiting their practical application. Superconductors are today used to make powerful electromagnets, including those used in MRI scanners. Exciting future possibilities include their use in efficient energy systems and supercomputers.
Muller and Bednorz discovered the first so-called high temperature superconductor at 35K in 1986, however, it was Professor Paul Chu and his former student MK Wu, working with a steely determination who a year later discovered superconductivity at 93K, offering the possibility of practical devices cooled by liquid nitrogen, which physicists often point out is cheaper than beer!
Despite the varied calls on his time today, Professor Chu remains dedicated to the pursuit of novel ways to make materials which will be superconducting at room temperature. Indeed, I know from colleagues at Loughborough that he engages in stimulating and enthusiastic discussion of this topic with collaborators worldwide. Room temperature superconductors have long been mentioned in science fiction literature and indeed the current record stands some 100 degrees short! But if they do become a reality, Professor Paul Chu will undoubtedly have played a major role in their development.
In addition to his research career, Professor Chu has made a significant contribution to the academic community. He has received many awards from around the world, including the President’s National Medal of Science in the USA and the International Prize for New Materials.
In his current role as President of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Professor Chu has made a key contribution to the development of the University, working closely with business and the local community and showing outstanding leadership qualities. He has a tremendous amount of energy and dedication to his work, which he carries out with great dignity and humility.
Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you, and the University, Professor Paul Ching-Wu Chu for the degree of DOCTOR OF SCIENCE, honoris causa.