Frederick Yi-Tung Cho (1939–2011)

His PhD days in Biophysics, the Photosynthesis Lab, and his patents in engineering physics

Abstract

We present here a Tribute to Frederick Yi-Tung Cho (1939–2011), an innovative and ingenious biophysicist and an entrepreneur. He was one of the 4 earliest PhD students [see: Cederstrand (1965)—Carl Nelson Cederstrand; coadvisor: Eugene Rabinowitch; Papageorgiou (1968)—George C. Papageorgiou (coauthor of this paper); and Munday (1968)—John C. Munday Jr. (also a coauthor of this paper)] of one of us (Govindjee) in Biophysics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) during the late 1960s (1963–1968). Fred was best known, in the photosynthesis circle for his pioneering work on low temperature (down to liquid helium temperature, 4 K) absorption and fluorescence spectroscopy of photosynthetic systems; he showed temperature independence of excitation energy transfer from (i) chlorophyll (Chl) b to Chl a and (ii) from Chl a 670 to Chl a 678; and temperature dependence of energy transfer from the phycobilins to Chl a and from Chl a 678 to its suggested trap. After doing research in biophysics of photosynthesis, Fred shifted to do research in solid-state physics/engineering in the Government Electronics Division (Group) of the Motorola Company, Scottsdale, Arizona, from where he published research papers in that area and had several patents granted. We focus mainly on his days at the UIUC in context of the laboratory in which he worked. We also list some of his papers and most of his patents in engineering physics. His friends and colleagues have correctly described him as an innovator and an ingenious scientist of the highest order. On the personal side, he was a very easy-going and amiable individual.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Bernard (Bud) C. Abbott, Govindjee, and Howard S. Ducoff served as members of his Qualifying Committee, whereas Govindjee (Biophysics), Floyd Dunn (Electrical Engineering), John D. Anderson (Physiology), Pierce W. Ketchum (Mathematics), and Eugene Rabinowitch (Biophysics) served on his Preliminary Exam.

  2. 2.

    During the time Fred was writing his thesis, Govindjee remembers being on Sabbatical at the Centre National Recherche Scientifique in Gif-sur-Yvette, France, working with Jean Lavorel and Martin Kamen. Fred would send him details, in exquisite handwritten text (and hand-drawn figures), covering all possible space in what was then 13-cent aerograms (Govindjee still has 3 of them in his personal collection; see Supplementary Material).

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Acknowledgements

We thank Greg Scholes for suggestions regarding interpretation of Fred’s research, Thomas Hickernell for his contribution, and Sandra Stirbet for preparing Table 1 (see the Appendix) on the patents granted to Fred Cho and his coworkers. Our special thanks go to Jing (Jean) Wang for her crucial support to Fred when he needed it the most. We thank all the staff of the Department of Plant Biology, Department of Biochemistry, and Center of Biophysics and Quantitative Biology for their cooperation in providing information on Fred Cho. All the material used in this article is taken from the personal files in the office of one of us (Govindjee).

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Correspondence to Govindjee.

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This paper was edited by William W, Adams III and Barbara Demmig-Adams, and approved for publication in Photosynthesis Research by Demmig-Adams, who added: “This tribute provides a sense of the lasting personal relationships forged in Govindjee’s group with its collaborative, innovative spirit.”

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 9706 KB)

Appendix

Appendix

See Table 1.

Table 1 A list of patents coauthored by Frederick Y. Cho and several others (see alphabetical list in the main text)

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Govindjee, Munday, J.C. & Papageorgiou, G.C. Frederick Yi-Tung Cho (1939–2011). Photosynth Res 132, 227–234 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11120-017-0391-x

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Keywords

  • Excitation energy transfer
  • Liquid helium temperature
  • Motorola company
  • Biophysics of photosynthesis
  • Govindjee Lab
  • Surface wave devices
  • Acoustic charge transport