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  • Asteroid Bears Nobelist's Name into Solar System


    Nobel Laureate Herbert Kroemer has seen his fame raised to new heights.

    Last year it was the Nobel Prize; this year it's a heavenly body. An asteroid, previously named number 24751, has been renamed Kroemer, after Herbert Kroemer, a recent Nobel Prize winner and UCSB faculty member.
    When asked how he felt upon hearing about the asteroid named after him, the professor said, "It's the most surprising thing that can happen to you. I enjoyed it."
    The asteroid was discovered in 1992 by the German astronomer Freimut Boerngen, who first suggested naming the asteroid Kroemer. The name was recently approved by the Minor Planet Center of the International Astronomical Union in Cambridge, Mass., part of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
    According to the Minor Planet Center, when a new asteroid is discovered, the discoverer has the privilege of naming it and submitting the name to an international committee for approval. Approximately 8000 asteroids have been named, close to one-third of the total discovered.
    The Kroemer asteroid has an elliptical orbit around the sun between Mars and Jupiter. The asteroid never gets close to Earth and is not in a collision path.
    Chancellor Henry T. Yang said he was "just delighted" to learn that an asteroid had been named for Kroemer. He said that Kroemer "continues to be a source of inspiration and pride for our entire campus. That his name will now be a fixture in the firmament is truly wonderful."
    Kroemer, who holds the Donald W. Whittier Chair in Electrical Engineering and is a professor of materials, shared the year 2000 Nobel Prize in physics for developing semiconductor heterostructures used in high-speed and opto-electronics. Another UCSB colleague, physicist Alan Heeger, shared the Nobel Prize in chemistry last year.
    A native of Germany, Kroemer received a Ph.D. in theoretical physics in 1952 from the University of Gšttingen, with a dissertation on hot-electron effects in the then-new transistor, setting the stage for a career in research on the physics of semiconductors and semiconductor devices.
    He worked in a number of research laboratories in Germany and the USA, and joined the UCSB Department of Electrical Engineering in 1976 with a plan to put its resources into emerging compound semiconductor research technology. In this field, Kroemer saw an opportunity for UCSB to become a leader. He became the first member of the group, founding what has grown into a large group that is second to none in the physics and technology of compound semiconductors and devices based on them.