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Sunday, September 24, 2023


Prof’s lab coat, shoes walk onto exhibit

Renowned superconductivity professor Paul Chu will be one of 43 people showcased in a new museum exhibit, “Texans Head to Foot,” at the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio.

The exhibit, which is displaying items worn by the various people, aims to inspire others by featuring Texans who have lived inspired lives.

“His (Chu’s) story is pretty inspiring,” Sara Gould, the exhibit’s curator, said. “And the criteria was that all the people we selected have some kind of inspiring story that could potentially inspire visitors of the exhibit.”

The exhibit tries to connect its visitors with the Texans on display by featuring shoes, hats and other accessories from great Texans, such as former Gov. Ann Richards, music legend Buddy Holly, NBA superstar Yao Ming, and former President George H.W. Bush

“We wanted to represent those people through something everyone can identify with, and something as common as show,” Gould said. “And also it kind of works with the metaphor of walking in someone else’s shoes, that kind of idea.”

Chu first gained notoriety when he was part of a group of scientists who discovered superconductivity at above 77 degrees Kelvin, which is the boiling point of liquid nitrogen.

Throughout his life, Chu has received countless awards, including the Comstock Prize, Bernd Matthias Prize, the Texas Instruments Founders Award, the Ettore Majorana-Erice-Science for Peace Prize and the National Medal of Science, but he said this odd request surprised him.

“It’s a great honor,” Chu said. “But at the same time I felt there are so many people here.”

As a contribution to the exhibit, Chu donated his lab coat and jogging shoes that he kept in his office, which he hasn’t worn in some time.

“My wife told me ‘make sure the shoes don’t stink,’” Chu said.

He hopes his story will inspire others, and points to the fact that when he arrived in this country he only had ten dollars.

Chu said he wants to give back to the country that has given him the opportunity to be where he is now.

The exhibit will feature other Texan community members, such as a local schoolteacher, who was awarded Teacher of the Year in Texas, and a Texas Ranger.

The exhibit opened in late January and will conintue through May 1. It is associated with the Smithsonian Institute.

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