Neal Lane

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Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Video conference
Usage Information and Disclaimer
Disclaimer text

This transcript is based on a tape-recorded interview deposited at the Center for History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics. The AIP's interviews have generally been transcribed from tape, edited by the interviewer for clarity, and then further edited by the interviewee. If this interview is important to you, you should consult earlier versions of the transcript or listen to the original tape. For many interviews, the AIP retains substantial files with further information about the interviewee and the interview itself. Please contact us for information about accessing these materials.

Please bear in mind that: 1) This material is a transcript of the spoken word rather than a literary product; 2) An interview must be read with the awareness that different people's memories about an event will often differ, and that memories can change with time for many reasons including subsequent experiences, interactions with others, and one's feelings about an event. Disclaimer: This transcript was scanned from a typescript, introducing occasional spelling errors. The original typescript is available.

Preferred citation

In footnotes or endnotes please cite AIP interviews like this:

Interview of Neal Lane by David Zierler on March 15, 2021,
Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,
College Park, MD USA,

For multiple citations, "AIP" is the preferred abbreviation for the location.


Interview with Neal Lane, University Professor Emeritus and Professor Emeritus of Physics and Astronomy at Rice University, with an additional affiliation at the Baker Institute for Public Policy. Lane recounts his childhood in Oklahoma and his education at the University of Oklahoma, where Chun Lin became his thesis advisor for his research on the excitation of a sodium atom from its ground state. He discusses his postdoctoral appointment at Queen’s University of Belfast to work with Alex Dalgarno before taking a position at JILA in Boulder. Lane describes his work with Sydney Geltman and the opportunity to take a faculty position at Rice, and he discusses his role as NSF physics division director. He narrates his decision to become chancellor at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, before returning to Rice to serve as provost. Lane describes how the Clinton administration invited him to lead the NSF. He explains the importance of direct communication with OMB, his relationship with Al Gore, and the key guidance offered by National Academy reports. Lane describes the LIGO effort from his vantage point at the NSF, and he explains his time as director of OSTP and Assistant to the President for Science and Technology. Lane discusses his work for PCAST and in the creation of the NNSA, and he describes returning to Rice after Gore lost the presidency, where the Baker Institute allowed him an environment to continue working in science and policy. At the end of the interview, Lane emphasizes the power of human connections as the foundation of all good science and policy endeavors.


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