Christine Smith, 28
University of California, Davis
In many fields of technology, collaboration across disciplines is growing rapidly in importance. The people who lead these large-scale collaborations need strong political skills to identify, organize and raise funds for promising projects. It also helps enormously if they are technologists who speak the same language as the project partners. Fitting that role is materials scientist Christine Smith. Still in her 20s, she has already paved the way for productive research collaborations among thousands of people.
As a graduate student at the University of California, Davis, Smith came up with a laser-based method of designing nanocrystals, but she realized she needed facilities at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. So she initiated a still thriving partnership between students and researchers at these two institutions.
She later repeated this feat on a larger scale at the University of California (UC), fostering collaborations among thousands of employees at UC’s nine campuses, the three national labs it manages, government agencies and corporations. Partnerships established through Smith’s programs have led to advances in polymer design and human genomics. "Equally at home with high-level scientists and venture capitalists" as a former colleague remarked, Smith could be an important catalyst in the formation of many future collaborations.