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Bear Perspective: A scholar’s journey into entrepreneurship Last March, Berkeley welcomed Paul Alivisatos as its new vice chancellor for research. A pioneer in applying nanocrystals to biological imaging and renewable energy, Alivisatos previously directed the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory for seven years and has been a chemistry professor at Cal since 1988. He also helped found three companies. In May, he received the National Medal of Science from President Obama (pictured here). As Alivisatos fosters a dynamic campus environment driven by curiosity and the desire to do good, he reflects on his own journey to bridge the gap between the lab and marketplace.

Since I was a graduate student at

seamlessly. It has always been my

Berkeley in the early 1980s, I have

personal goal to work this way.

always wanted the fundamental research I was part of to have a practical use.

I have been involved in creating three

This follows from the broader ethos of

companies, each one a wonderful

Berkeley, where scholarship is brought

adventure that resulted from our

to bear on changing the world, and has

team's very foundational research in

guided me over the years. It led me

nanomaterials. Quantum Dot Corp., now

to a postdoctoral position at Bell Labs

part of a large biotech company, invented

and to work on tiny crystals before the

products that are widely used today in

subject was formally recognized. At

medical imaging. I was involved with

that time, while my Berkeley colleagues

Solexant, a solar energy effort, during

were debating the relative merits of

its start-up phase, but it struggled to

basic versus applied research, I sensed

gain traction. Nanosys, Inc. has been

that the Bell Labs community had a

the most fun of all, as the materials we

more nuanced concept in which these

developed continue to impact diverse

two approaches could be integrated

areas, especially commercially available


The Promise of Berkeley


Winter 2017

Promise of Berkeley Winter 2017