Frank Shu

Frank H. Shu (Chinese: 徐遐生; pinyin: Xú Xiáshēng; born June 2, 1943), is an American astrophysicist, astronomer and author. He is currently a university professor emeritus of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley and University of California, San Diego.

Frank Shu
Frank Hsia-San Shu, the Fellow of Academia Sinica.JPG
Born (1943-06-02) June 2, 1943 (age 77)
CitizenshipUnited States
Alma materHarvard University
Known forDensity wave theory, star formation
AwardsWarner Prize (1977)
Brouwer Award (1996)
Heineman Prize (2000)
Shaw Prize (2009)
Bruce Medal (2009)
Scientific career
InstitutionsUC Berkeley
Stony Brook University
National Tsing Hua University (2002–2006)
UC San Diego
Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics
Doctoral advisorChia-Chiao Lin
Doctoral studentsEve Ostriker


Shu's hometown is Yongjia County, in Wenzhou of Zhejiang. Shu's father, Shu Shien-Siu, was a mathematician and former President (1970–1975) of the National Tsing Hua University.[citation needed] Shu completed his BS in physics in 1963 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While still an undergraduate, he developed (with Chia-Chiao Lin) a theory governing spiral arms in galaxies, known as the spiral density wave theory. He later received his PhD in astronomy in 1968 at Harvard University.

Academic careerEdit

Shu served as chair of the astronomy department of UC Berkeley from 1984 until 1988, and has held faculty appointments at the Stony Brook University and UC Berkeley. He was president of the National Tsing Hua University from February 2002[1] until February 2006. He joined the faculty at UC San Diego as a distinguished professor of physics in 2006 and also holds the title of University Professor, a UC system-wide honor reserved for scholars of international distinction who are recognized as teachers of exceptional ability. He also is a university professor emeritus at UC Berkeley.

From 1994 to 1996, Shu was the President of the American Astronomical Society (AAS).


Shu is known for pioneering theoretical work in a diverse set of fields of astrophysics, including the origin of meteorites, the birth and early evolution of stars and the structure of spiral galaxies. One of his most highly cited works is a 1977 seminal paper[2] describing the collapse of a dense giant molecular cloud core which forms a star. This model (commonly referred to as the "inside-out" collapse model or the "singular isothermal sphere" model) helped provide the basis for much later work on the formation of stars and planetary systems, although it has been criticized for its shortcomings. The model starts from a singular isothermal sphere, collapses from inside-out, and applies self-similarity. The major drawback is that it is unstable and therefore unphysical as an initial condition, though, it demonstrates much of the physics and is the only existing analytic model. Shu has also performed calculations on the structure of planet-forming disks around very young stars, the jets and winds that these stars and their disks generate, and the production of chondrules, inclusions in meteorites. Much of this work has been done in collaboration with his postdocs and graduate students, collectively known as the Shu factory and many of whom have gone on to successful academic careers in their own right.

Honors and awardsEdit


Shu is the author of several books, among them Physical Universe: An Introduction to Astronomy (University Science Books, 1982) which has become one of the standard textbooks for undergraduate astrophysics courses all over the world, while the two volumes The Physics of Astrophysics Vol. I: Radiation (University Science Books, 1991) and The Physics of Astrophysics Vol. II: Gas Dynamics (University Science Books, 1992) are classical texts commonplace in astrophysics graduate curricula as well as recommended by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Previous PhD StudentsEdit

The following individuals studied under Shu:[5]


  1. ^ Normile, Dennis Normile (18 January 2002). "Frank Shu Named University Head". Science. 295 (5554): 429. doi:10.1126/science.295.5554.429b.
  2. ^ F. Shu (1977). "Self-similar collapse of isothermal spheres and star formation". Astrophysical Journal. 214: 488. Bibcode:1977ApJ...214..488S. doi:10.1086/155274.
  3. ^ "Former AAS President, Frank Shu, awarded Dannie Heineman Prize for 2000" (Press release). AIP. Archived from the original on 2010-09-20. Retrieved 2009-07-15.
  4. ^ The Shaw Prize 2009 Retrieved 2009-07-15.
  5. ^ "The Mathematics Genealogy Project - Frank Shu". Retrieved 2015-12-06.

External linksEdit

Academic offices
Preceded by
Chung Laung Liu
President of National Tsing Hua University
Succeeded by
Wen-Tsuen Chen