University of California

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Daniel Z. Freedman, Professor Emeritus of Applied Mathematics and Physics at MIT and long-term visiting professor at Stanford. Freedman explains his understanding of the term’s mathematical physics and physical mathematics, and he bemoans the broad decoupling of experiment and theory in physics. He recounts his upbringing in West Hartford, Connecticut, and he describes his undergraduate education at Wesleyan. Freedman describes his early attachment to theory and his graduate work at the University of Wisconsin, where he worked under the direction of Ray Sawyer on Regge poles. He discusses his postdoctoral research as a NATO fellow in Europe at CERN and Imperial College London, and he conveys the sense of excitement at the time about the weak and strong interactions. Freedman describes his appointment at UC Berkeley before joining the Institute for Advanced Study, and he explains the opportunity that led to his faculty job at Stony Brook. He reflects on his interactions with Yang and he narrates the origins of supersymmetry, and shortly after, the origins of supergravity. Freedman explains what is “super” in supergravity, supersymmetry, and super-space, and he describes why the reality of supersymmetry must be true even if we lack the tools to see it. He explains his decision to move to MIT, and he connects the arc from the 1984 string revolution to the discovery of AdS/CFT in 1997. Freedman describes winning the Dirac medal and subsequently the Breakthrough Prize, which he understood as confirmation in the community about the importance of supergravity. At the end of the interview, Freedman connects his work to larger questions in cosmology and astrophysics, he expresses surprise by the increasing centrality of mathematics to physics, he explains his early work on neutrino scattering and why after 40 years, his original intuition has been vindicated.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Robert Cahn, Senior Scientist Emeritus at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. Cahn recounts his childhood in the San Francisco area, and he describes his early interests in math and science, and he describes his undergraduate experience at Harvard, where he was influenced by Dan Kleppner and Ed Purcell. Cahn describes his summer internship at SLAC, and his travel experiences in Europe after graduating. He describes his decision to pursue graduate work at Berkeley and he explains the political tumult that had convulsed the campus in the late 1960s. Cahn discusses his work with Dave Jackson on Regge theory and his postdoctoral work at SLAC, which was focused on quark research. Cahn describes his work at the University of Washington, where he collaborated with Lowell Brown, and he explains his decision to join the physics faculty at University of Michigan, where he collaborated on several projects with Gordy Kane and where he became interested in parity violation in atoms. Cahn explains his decision to move to UC Davis, and he describes the opportunity at LBL that presented itself shortly thereafter. Cahn describes the way LBL has been integrated with the physics department at Berkeley, and he discusses his tenure as Director of the Physics division. At the end of the interview, Cahn describes LBL’s increasing involvement in cosmology, the fundamental discoveries that have been made over the course of his career, and he considers some of the philosophical or metaphysical issues that arise in investigating how the universe works.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
David Zierler
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Raymond Sawyer, professor of physics emeritus at the University of California at Santa Barbara.  Sawyer recounts his childhood growing up in many towns in the Midwest as a function of his father’s frequent job transfers. He discusses his undergraduate studies at Swarthmore College, where he developed his interest in physics, and he explains the atmosphere of wide career opportunity in the age of Sputnik. Sawyer describes his graduate research at Harvard, where he worked in Norman Ramsey’s molecular beam lab.  He explains how Julian Schwinger came to be his advisor and he describes his dissertation study on symmetries and the weak interactions of elementary particles. Sawyer discusses his postdoctoral research at CERN where he joined the theory group and where he studied the decay of a charged pion. He describes his second postdoctoral appointment at the University of Wisconsin and his work in quantum field theory at the Institute for Advanced Study which he did at the invitation of Robert Oppenheimer.  Sawyer explains the series of events leading to his decision to join the faculty at UC Santa Barbara, and he discusses his role in the formation of the Institute for Theoretical Physics. He explains his invention of charged pion condensation and he describes his work in university administration. At the end of the interview, Sawyer reflects on his contributions throughout his career, and he explains how he has kept active in the field during retirement.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Philip Anfinrud, Senior Biomedical Research Scientist, National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, at the National Institutes of Health. Anfinrud likens his work environment to the “Bell Labs of Biophysics” and he expresses his pride in working with colleagues conducting research at the cutting-edge of their respective fields. He recounts his upbringing in small town North Dakota and how he developed his early interests in atmospheric chemistry. Anfinrud describes the circumstances leading to his graduate work at Berkeley, and how he approached his interests in physics from a physical chemistry perspective. He describes his work with Walter Struve on energy transport and picosecond lasers, and he describes his postdoctoral research with Robin Hochstrasser at the University of Pennsylvania where he worked on infrared spectroscopy on the femtosecond time scale. Anfinrud discusses his first faculty appointment at Harvard, and he describes the process building a laser lab in partnership with Mitsubishi. Anfinrud explains his research on myoglobin and photolysis laser pulses, and he describes his first forays in X-ray radiation and crystallography. He describes his move to the NIH, where he created Laboratory of Ultrafast Biophysical Chemistry. Anfinrud explains the value of NMR spectroscopy to understand protein folding, and he describes how his interests are situated more in the realm of basic science and not clinically-oriented research. He discusses the value of scaling laws in physics as a means for understanding biochemical phenomena, and he describes the numerous ways that the NIH provides an ideal environment for research. At the end of the interview, Anfinrud provides an overview of his current research in time-resolved crystallography and single molecule behavior, and he describes the public health impact of his work on speech droplets as a means of transmitting the coronavirus.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Robert C. Dynes, Research Professor, Emeritus President of the University of California, and Emeritus Chancellor of UC San Diego. Dynes recounts his childhood in Ontario, his early interests in science, and his decision to attend the University of Western Ontario for college. He explains his decision to pursue a PhD at McMaster University, and he describes some of the advances in superconductivity that were exciting at that time. Dynes discusses his postdoctoral research at Bell Labs and he emphasizes that the research culture was geared exclusively to basic science and had nothing to do with financial considerations toward Bell’s business. He describes his political engagement during the Vietnam Era and he describes the changing culture at Bell during the breakup in the 1980s when he was Director of Chemical Physics. Dynes discusses his research on thin films of metals at the atomic level, and he explains the circumstances leading to his tenure at UC San Diego. He explains how the university was building up across the sciences, and he conveys how important teaching was to him. Dynes describes the process leading to being named Chancellor, and he reviews his challenges and accomplishments in this role. He compares the Chancellor’s responsibilities to those of the UC President, to which he was named in 2003, and he describes his efforts to remain active in research even as he was running the entire UC system. Dynes describes the existential challenge of being president at a time that the state was defunding public education, and he describes some of his key successes in faculty recruitment. He conveys his delight when his term as president ended and he was able to return to the physics department in San Diego. At the end of the interview Dynes cites integrity and creativity as the characteristics that he sees as most fundamental to success in science.

 

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Remote Interview
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, Interviews Robert Kuckuck, director emeritus of Los Alamos National Laboratory. He recounts his childhood in Wheeling, West Virginia, and he describes his working-class upbringing and how he would understand pursuing an advanced degree as very much an against-the-grain endeavor relative to his roots. He describes the circumstances leading to his undergraduate education at West Liberty State College and how he settled on physics as a major. Kuckuck discusses his work in the library for Battelle, and the arrangement he made to pursue a graduate degree in physics part time at Ohio State. He describes his work there under the direction of K. Narahari Rao and how he came to work at the Radiation Laboratory at the University of California. Kuckuck explains what he learned about nuclear weapons and research early in his career at Livermore, and how he integrated his lab work in the L-Division with his graduate studies. He describes some of the tensions surrounding working in a military research environment in the midst of the Vietnam War. Kuckuck describes in broad detail his four decades in research and administration at Livermore, including some of the key collaborations both within government and in the private technical sector. He describes his work at the Nevada Test Site and the challenges inherent in underground nuclear testing. Kuckuck reflects on the competitive relationship between Livermore and Los Alamos and the nature of his advisory work on verification issues and SDI research in Washington during the late stage of the Cold War. Kuckuck describes the impact of the end of the Cold War on nuclear testing and the creation of the NNSA. At the end of the interview, Kuckuck explains the complex factors leading to his brief directorship of Los Alamos, and he reflects on his efforts to maintain the viability and reputation for cutting edge research at the lab over the long term.