After graduating with a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1969, Charles V. Shank headed to the most successful industrial research institution in the world, the AT&T; Bell Laboratories in New Jersey. He spent 20 years there, as both a researcher and director, and his work changed the way scientists see and understand the most fundamental events that shape our world. From there, he went on to play a major role in shaping how scientists approach basic questions about how our world works.
Shank's pioneering research at the Bell Labs introduced the use of short laser pulses to the study of ultrafast events, which take place in a millionth of a billionth of a second. The technique allows researchers to observe atomic motions and interactions with extraordinary time resolution, gaining a better understanding of how energy is stored and transferred within materials. Of particular note was his work in understanding the first step of vision by elucidating the femtochemistry of the molecule rhodopsin.
In 1989, Shank moved to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, where he served as Director until 2004. The oldest of the Department of Energy's national laboratories, the Berkeley Lab conducts a broad range of research, recently contributing to the development of nanoscience, opening new questions about energy and the universe, and using advanced computing as a tool for scientific discovery. During his 15-year tenure there, Shank oversaw remarkable growth of the lab. Under his direction, the Berkeley Lab emerged as a leader in the field of supercomputing and joined with two other national labs to form the Joint Genome Institute, a major contributor to the decoding of the human genome.
Charles V. Shank earned his bachelor's, master's, and Ph.D. degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. He directed the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory for 15 years and was a professor of chemistry, physics, and electrical engineering and computer sciences at UC Berkeley.