Dr. Cristie Jo Johnston: Has your outspoken Christianity, your outspoken faith, caused any problems with your promotions here at Rice University? Because we see that in other parts of the country. What about for you here?
Dr. James Tour: Nothing has happened in promotions as far as professorial promotions at Rice. I came to Rice as a chaired professor and I’ve maintained that chair. Thirty years ago, things were different than they are now. In 2004, approximately when the Dover trial occurred, there was a sort of change where people started thinking more critically toward Christians. I have been held back tremendously in awards and in societies – in professional societies that have not permitted me to come in because of my faith – because of my not buying in wholeheartedly to the mantra of evolution.
Dr. James Tour’s scientific research areas include nanoelectronics, graphene electronics and photovoltaics, carbon supercapacitors, lithium ion batteries, chemical self-assembly and carbon nanotube and graphene synthetic modifications. He has also worked extensively on carbon composites, hydrogen storage, and practical applications in medicine and oil recovery for nanoengineered carbon. He is perhaps best known for his carbon-based fullerene-wheeled “nanocars,” a 2005 breakthrough feat in nanoengineering that produced functional, rolling vehicles just a few nanometers in size.
Tour also built small humanoids using similar technology. An example called the “NanoKid” became the basis for a school-based learning program for children that introduced them to nanoscience. His commitment to science education continued with his more recent Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero science educational package development for middle school education.
Tour received his bachelor of science degree in chemistry from Syracuse Univ., and his Ph.D. in synthetic organic and organometallic chemistry from Purdue Univ. He joined the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology at Rice University in 1999. Tour has more than 650 research publications, more than 120 patents and averages more than 3,000 citations per year.