In this interview, Jo Dunkley, professor of physics and astrophysical sciences at Princeton, discusses her life and career. Dunkley describes the nature of this dual appointment and she recounts her childhood in London and her all-girls school education. She describes her undergraduate experience at Cambridge and the formative influence of Malcolm Longair’s class on relativity. Dunkley explains that pursuing a graduate degree in physics was not a foregone conclusion, and that she initially considered a career in international development. She discusses her motivation to study under the direction Pedro Ferreira at Oxford to work on the cosmic microwave background experiments. Dunkley conveys the immediate importance of Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) on her thesis research and the opportunities that led to her postdoctoral work at Princeton to work with David Spergel and Lyman Page on WMAP. She explains her decision to return to the Oxford faculty to continue working with Ferreira and the origins of her involvement in the Atacama Cosmology Telescope project and subsequently the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST, now the Vera C. Rubin Observatory) endeavor and her work on it with Ian Shipsey. Dunkley discusses the challenges in maintaining a work-life balance during maternity leaves at Oxford and then at Princeton, after she joined the faculty in 2016. She describes the many exciting projects her graduate students are working on and she explains her current interests in understanding the Hubble constant. At the end of the interview, Dunkley surveys the major unanswered questions in contemporary cosmology, the viability of discovering the mass of neutrinos, and what the interplay between theory and experimentation might hold for the future.
In this interview, Fred Gilman, Buhl Professor of Theoretical Physics at Carnegie Mellon University discusses his career as a theoretical physicist and hopes for the future. He discusses being a postdoc in the theoretical physics group at SLAC and his work on deep inelastic scattering. He details his involvement with the Superconducting Super Collider and the eventual decision to shut down its construction. Gilman reflects on his involvement with the Snowmass Conference as well as his work on the High-Energy Physics Advisory Panel. Lastly, Gilman speaks about his excitement for future discoveries from the Vera Rubin Observatory and his hopes for Carnegie Mellon and their involvement with physics.
Interview with Marcelle Soares-Santos, assistant professor of physics at the University of Michigan. Soares-Santos recounts her childhood in Brazil, her early interests in science, and her graduate work in physics at the University of São Paulo. She describes her graduate visit to Fermilab to study galaxy clusters as a way to map the history of the expanding universe, which formed the basis of her thesis research. Soares-Santos discusses her return to Fermilab as a postdoctoral researcher, where she joined the Dark Energy Survey, and she explains how DES is getting us closer to understanding what dark energy is. She describes Fermilab’s broad-scale transition into astrophysics, and she explains the opportunities that led to her faculty appointment first at Brandeis before moving to Michigan. Soares-Santos discusses her current work in gravitational waves, and she prognosticates on what the discovery of dark energy (or energies) will look like. She shares her perspective on recent efforts to improve diversity and inclusivity in STEM. At the end of the interview, Soares-Santos explains why observation is leading theory in the current work of astrophysics and cosmology and why she is optimistic for fundamental advances in the field.
Interview with Gordon Bowden, Staff Engineer for over fifty years at SLAC. Bowden recounts his childhood in California, Oregon and New Jersey as his father moved around for work, and he explains his interest in physics and his undergraduate experience at the University of Virginia. Bowden discusses his subsequent work at a small electronics company doing research on X-ray diffraction and building equipment for the Space Radiation Effects Laboratory. He describes his subsequent work at Boeing on fluidic development, and he explains his motivations to focus on National Laboratories for his next opportunity. Bowden discusses his initial work in the hydrogen bubble chamber operations group at SLAC and he describes Dick Taylor’s leadership of Group A. He surveys his contributions to DELCO and PEP 1 and explains why SLC was so significant and how the klystron group fit within the overall Lab structure. Bowden explains how LCLS was an outgrowth of SLC and how SLAC became involved in the LSST camera collaboration. He discusses the function of the Technology Innovation Directorate, and he describes his recent work on X-ray cancer therapy. At the end of the interview, Bowden reflects on how SLAC has shifted from its early reliance on visualization in its detectors, which has changed completely as a result of computer analysis.
Interview with Hiranya Peiris, Professor of Astrophysics at University College London and Director of the Oscar Klein Centre and Professor of Cosmo-Particle Physics at Stockholm University. Peiris describes her dual affiliation, she discusses diversity in STEM over the past year, and she surveys the current interplay between theory and observation in her field. She recounts her childhood and family heritage in Sri Lanka and the circumstances that led her family to relocate to the United Kingdom. Peiris describes her interests in math and science the opportunities that led to her enrollment at Cambridge as an undergraduate and a formative experience at JPL in California. She explains her decision to pursue a PhD at Princeton, where she worked with David Spergel on WMAP. Peiris discusses her postdoctoral appointment as a Hubble fellow at the University of Chicago to continue to work on WMAP, and her subsequent work as a Halliday fellow at Cambridge. Peiris discusses her work on the Lyman-alpha forest and her faculty appointment at UCL where cosmology was just coming into maturity. She conveys the excitement as WMAP results were becoming available and her contributions to the search for dark matter. Peiris explains why the LSST project is so significant, what it was like to win the Breakthrough Prize, and the gratitude she feels by having eminent physicists as mentors. At the end of the interview, Peiris emphasizes the importance of following inquiry into the most fundamental questions surrounding gravity and space time, and why Stephen Hawking remains an intellectual inspiration to her.