Argonne National Laboratory

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Daniel Zajfman, Institute Professor of Physics at the Weizmann Institute of Science, chair of the academic board of the Israel Science Foundation, chair of the Davidson Institute of Science Education, and Chair of the Schwartz/Reisman Science Education Center. Zajfman reviews some of the scientific and administrative challenges he has experienced during the pandemic, and the leadership role the Weizmann Institute has taken to navigate out of the crisis. He recounts his childhood in Belgium and his early interests in science, and he explains how his early inclinations toward Zionism coalesced into his decision to become an Israeli citizen and attend undergraduate school at the Technion. Zajfman discusses his undergraduate and graduate research in atomic physics, under the direction of Dov Maor. He describes his long-term interest in single ion atom collisions and his postdoctoral research at Argonne Lab, where he developed a complete analysis program that allowed the reconstruction of molecular geometries. Zajfman explains the circumstances leading to his initial appointment in the department of nuclear physics at the Weizmann Institute. He discusses his collaboration at the Max Planck Institute on dissociative recombination for a simple, cold, molecular ion, and he explains his contributions on research on gravitational collapse of interstellar clouds. Zajfman conveys his feelings, being the son of Holocaust survivors, on the significance of his collaborations in Germany. He describes the trajectory he was on that led to his tenure as president of the Weizmann Institute, and he explains how he balanced his administrative responsibilities with his strong desire to work in the lab as much as he could. Zajfman reflects on his accomplishments as president and the many responsibilities he could not foresee taking on, and he discusses Weizmann’s work with the Israeli Ministry of Science and its successful record of recruitment on the basis of the Institute being a purely “Curiosity Driven” center of science. At the end of the interview, Zajfman reflects on his contributions as president, and he conveys his confidence that the Institute has a bright future.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Herman B. White, physicist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. White recounts his childhood in Tuskegee, Alabama and growing up during segregation. He discusses his early interests in science and his decision to enroll at Earlham College in Indiana as an undergraduate. White then describes his time at Michigan State University as a graduate student, during which he also held a position as a resident research associate at Argonne National Laboratory. Dr. White talks about his transition from nuclear physics to particle physics upon completing his master’s degree at MSU. He discusses the events that led him to accept a position at Fermilab rather than immediately pursue a PhD. White was the first African-American scientist appointed at Fermilab, and he recounts his early years there being mentored by Raymond Stefanski. He then describes his research fellowship at Yale and his non-traditional path to getting a PhD in 1991 from Florida State University. White talks about returning to Fermilab to work on kaon physics, and his eventual involvement in the Tevatron experiment. Toward the end of the interview, White reflects on the changes and trends he has seen in the research being done at Fermilab over the years, as well as his involvement in the National Society of Black Physicists.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Teleconference
Abstract

In this interview, Michael Turner discusses his life and career. topics include: Kavli Foundation; Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics; Fred Kavli; Aspen Center for Physics; Rand Corporation; California Institute of Technology (Caltech); Robbie Vogt; Ed Stone; Barry Barish; SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory; B.J. Bjorken; University of Chicago; Dave Schramm; Kip Thorne; Fermi Institute / University of Chicago Institute for Nuclear Studies; Bob Wagoner; University of California, Santa Barbara; Larry Smarr; Dan Goldin; quarks-to-cosmos study; National Science Foundation; Rita Colwell; Advanced LIGO; Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA); IceCube South Pole Neutrino Observatory; Department of Energy; Argonne National Laboratory; Paul Steinhardt.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Charles H. Bennett, IBM Fellow and Research Staff Member at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center, IBM Corporation. Bennett recounts his childhood in the Hudson Valley, and he describes his exposure to the earliest versions of computers. He explains that his first interest as an undergraduate at Brandeis was in biochemistry, and how his focus shifted to chemical physics by the time he became a graduate student at Harvard where he studied under David Turnbull. Bennett discusses his postdoctoral research with Aneesur Rahman at Argonne National Laboratory and his growing interest in using computers for data analysis. He describes the opportunity that led to his job offer at IBM and he surveys the field of quantum information in its earliest formation. Bennett discusses his involvement in quantum cryptography and its relation to the uncertainty principle. He explains the origins of quantum teleportation, and he reflects on some of the central mysteries of quantum mechanics. Bennett discusses his work on entanglement distillation, and he describes some of the early naysaying about quantum computation. He surveys his more recent interests in the quantum reverse Shannon theorem and rediscovering rate distortion theory. At the end of the interview, Bennett puts some of the “buzz” regarding quantum computing in historical perspective and he explains his interest in applying mathematical models to understand questions about equilibrium in cosmology.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Paul Emma, retired and formerly Senior Staff Scientist at SLAC. Emma recounts his childhood in Illinois, and he describes his undergraduate work at Western Washington University in Bellingham. He explains why he left WWU early to accept an opportunity for graduate work at Caltech briefly before accepting a job at Fermilab where he worked in operations on the Main Ring and the Tevatron project. He describes the series of events leading to his work at SLAC, where he worked in operations and design on the LCLS, the SLC, and the NLC. Emma describes his work for the superconducting undulator for Argonne and Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories, and at the end of the interview he discusses his ongoing work on LCLS-II.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Sunil Sinha, Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Department of Physics at the University of California, San Diego. Sinha describes how he has been able to keep up his research during the COVID pandemic, and he recounts his childhood in Calcutta where he attended Catholic schools and developed his interests in math and science. He describes his undergraduate education at Cambridge where he became interested is quantum mechanics, and he explains his decision to remain there for graduate work to conduct research on neutron scattering under the direction of Gordon Squires. Sinha explains the centrality of neutron scattering to the development of condensed matter physics, and he describes the opportunities leading to his postdoctoral research at Iowa State. He discusses his work at Ames Lab and Argonne Lab, where he continued to pursue fundamental research on neutron scattering and rare earth materials. Sinha describes his research at Exxon Lab, and the start of the revolution in soft matter physics, and he explains his decision to return to Argonne at the beginning of the Advanced Photon Source project. He discusses his subsequent move to San Diego where he enjoyed a joint appointment with Los Alamos Lab and when he was able to concentrate more fully on teaching after a career spent mostly in laboratory environments. At the end of the interview, Sinha describes his current interest in spin glasses, exchange biases, and jamming theoretical computer simulations, and he explains the reason for the enduring mystery of the mechanism for high-temperature superconductivity. 

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Katherine Harkay, Senior Scientist at the Advanced Proton Source (APS) at Argonne National Laboratory. Harkay describes the APS upgrade and how the APS informs her broader views about the interplay of theory and experiment in accelerator physics. She recounts her childhood in New York City, the import of her Hungarian heritage, and her early interests in science. Harkay describes her undergraduate work at St. John’s and her attractions to experimental physics before entering the PhD program at Purdue. She describes her work at Fermilab and the opportunities that led to her work with Yanglai Cho at Argonne and the origins of the APS.  Harkay explains the broad range of experiments done at the APS and she describes the investigation of high-intensity limits and the safety considerations that ensure its proper operation. She discusses her work on cathode research and development and she explains the administrative responsibilities she took on after being named accelerator physics group leader. Harkay surveys Argonne’s efforts to bring more women into leadership positions and the broader value of a diversity of perspectives in science. At the end of the interview, Harkay emphasizes the importance of public outreach, and she cites the value of the APS’s value in X-ray imaging of the SARS-CoV-2 protein to exemplify the point.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview dates
March 18 and April 17, 2021
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Stephen Wolfram, Founder and CEO of Wolfram Research. He describes his recent efforts to launch an “assault” on the final theory of physics and he muses on the possibility that the human mind is a quantum mechanical system. Wolfram recounts his family’s German-Jewish heritage and his upbringing in Oxford, where his mother was an academic. He describes his schooling which put him on a trajectory to skip grades and begin college at age fifteen and to complete his PhD at age twenty. Wolfram discusses his early interests in particle theory and computer systems and he describes his summer research visit to Argonne Lab and his visit with David Gross at Princeton. He explains the circumstances that led to his admission at Caltech to work on QCD and his decision to accept a faculty appointment at Caltech thereafter. Wolfram narrates the origins of the SMP program and the intellectual property issues he experienced as a Caltech professor. He explains his intellectual migration away from physics toward the work that would become Mathematica and Wolfram Language, and he describes his time at the Institute for Advanced Study. Wolfram discusses the business model he adopted for Mathematica and his educational motivations that were incorporated into the program from its inception. He discusses his interests in complex system research and his fascination with cellular automata, and he narrates the intellectual process that led to his book A New Kind of Science. Wolfram surveys the reviews, positive and negative, that he has received for this work, and he offers a retrospective look at how NKS has held up as it approaches its twentieth anniversary. He describes the launch of Wolfram Alpha and the promises and limits of quantum computing and why he has returned to physics in recent years. At the end of the interview, Wolfram asserts that he has never taken risk in any of his decisions, and he considers how his approach and the intellectual and business ventures he has pursued will continue to yield solutions for many of the ongoing and seemingly intractable problems in physics.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, Lee Pondrom, Professor of Physics Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, recounts his childhood in Dallas, San Antonio and Houston and describes his early interest in science. He explains his motivations to attend Southern Methodist University, where he pursued a degree in physics. Pondrom discusses his graduate work at the University of Chicago where the long-range influence of the Manhattan Project remained strong, even in the early and mid-1950s. He describes his summer research work at Los Alamos, and his thesis research on cyclotrons and pi mesons under the direction of Albert Crewe and Uli Kruse. Pondrom conveys the feeling of excitement at the discovery of parity violation while he was a graduate student, his postdoctoral work on the Nevis cyclotron while at Columbia, and he describes his Air Force service after he defended his dissertation. He describes the opportunities leading to his tenure at the University of Wisconsin and a research agenda that included long-term projects at the Chicago cyclotron, and at Fermilab and at Argonne. Pondrom discusses his contributions to CP violation, hyperon decay and how computers have been useful over the course of the career. He describes the origins of Fermilab and his experiences at Madison during the student unrest during the late 1960s, where bombers targeted science buildings. Pondrom discusses the significance of the E8 experiment as an extension of the Garwin-Lederman experiment and the origins of the Tevatron project. He explains the ups and downs of U.S. high energy physics during the SSC years and he surmises what would be known now in particle physics had the SSC been completed. At the end of the interview, Pondrom describes his extensive collaborations in Russia and his study of Soviet-era physics, including his work on Stalin’s nuclear diplomacy.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Wayne Hendrickson, Violin Family Professor of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics at Columbia University. Hendrickson recounts his childhood on a dairy farm in Wisconsin and explains how this environment fostered his interest in the natural world. He describes his undergraduate experience at the University of Wisconsin at River Falls, and his formative work at Argonne Lab where he studied Caesium-137 levels in beagle dogs. Hendrickson describes his intent to focus on biophysics in graduate school and his decision to accept at offer at Johns Hopkins, where he became interested in protein crystallography and electron microscopy. He discusses his dissertation research under the direction of Warner Love and the importance of the research conducted at Woods Hole which influences his work on studying hemoglobin in lampreys. Hendrickson describes the importance of computational biology and the promises this offered protein crystallography, and he explains the influence of Linus Pauling in advancing the field. He explains why he stayed on at Hopkins after his defense because he felt there was more work for him to complete on the Patterson function. Hendrickson discusses his work at the Naval Research Laboratory on parvalbumin molecules and his developing interests in anomalous scattering techniques. He discusses how the field matured and had gained broader acceptance, and he surmises how these trends led to recruitment efforts that led to his tenure at Columbia in the 1980s. Hendrickson explains the labyrinthine nature of his many appointments and affiliations at Columbia, and the opportunities he has had to teach and to mentor graduate students within an environment that is primarily research-focused. He discusses the improvement of technology over the course of his time at Columbia, and he discusses his work on beamlines at Howard Hughes and Brookhaven. Hendrickson describes his work as scientific director of the New York Structural Biology Center, and he explains how his research has moved closer toward clinical motivations in recent years. At the end of the interview, Hendrickson reflects on his long career in biophysics, and he draws on the story of HIV infectivity as an example of how the field can progress from a place of really not understanding basic biological problems, to developing effective therapies.