Cornell University

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Location
Video conference
Abstract

The interviewee has not given permission for this interview to be shared at this time. Transcripts will be updated as they become available to the public. For any questions about this policy, please contact .

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

The interviewee has not given permission for this interview to be shared at this time. Transcripts will be updated as they become available to the public. For any questions about this policy, please contact [email protected].

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Dale Van Harlingen, Professor of Physics at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He recounts his childhood in Ohio and his undergraduate education at OSU in physics and his early work on SQUIDS. Van Harlingen discusses his mentor Jim Garland, and he explains his decision to stay at OSU for graduate school to develop SQUID devices to make phase-sensitive measurements. He explains the opportunities that gained him a postdoctoral appointment at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge where he developed his expertise in the Josephson Effect, and where he met John Clarke, who offered him a subsequent postdoctoral position at UC Berkeley. Van Harlingen describes his foray using SQUIDS to push the quantum limit, and he explains his decision to join the faculty at Illinois, where he was impressed both with the quality of the research and how nice everyone was. He describes joining the Materials Research Laboratory and the development of the Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory, and he conveys his admiration for Tony Leggett. Van Harlingen discusses his research in NMR microscopy, grain boundary junctions, scanning tunneling microscopy, vortex configurations, and he describes his current interest in unconventional superconductors. At the end of the interview, Van Harlingen conveys his excitement about the national quantum initiative as a major collaboration between universities and National Labs, and he explains his motivation to understand if Majorana fermions actually exist.

Interviewed by
Richard J. Peppin
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, Chuck Ebbing discusses his career and involvement with the Acoustical Society of America (ASA). Ebbing discusses his time at Purdue University as an undergraduate student where he studied electrical engineering. He details his time working at Carrier and his work designing anechoic rooms. He speaks about his time in the U.S. Army and his experience attending guided missile school. Ebbing discusses getting his master’s degree at the Cornell Aeronautical Lab where he built and designed a magnetostrictive transducer. He describes his time as a member of ASA where he worked on a standard regarding air conditioning measurements. Lastly, Ebbing discusses his displeasure with ASA’s lack of encouragement for creativity. 

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, Paul Schechter, the William A. M. Burden Professor of Astrophysics, Emeritus, at MIT discusses his time as an undergraduate student at Cornell University under the mentorship of Al Silverman and his involvement working on the Cornell synchrotron, as well as Silverman’s influence on his decision to attend Caltech for graduate school. Schechter discusses his collaboration with Bill Press on the issue of dark matter and the eventual creation of their model, the Extended Press-Schechter. He also details how studying the infall of galaxies toward the Virgo Cluster, and the subsequent paper he contributed to on the topic, were the most exciting part of his time working at the Kitt Peak National Observatory. Schechter describes his later interests in gravitational lensing and his efforts to create higher quality images for Magellan telescopes. Lastly, he discusses his desire to find the stellar mass fraction in galaxies.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Teleconference
Abstract

In this interview, Steven Squyres discusses: taking Chief Scientist position at Blue Origin; current interests in planetary science including the shift toward sample return missions; changes to human and robotic spaceflight; private enterprise’s emerging role; family background; decision to attend Cornell undergrad in geology; how a course on the results of the Viking mission influenced his decision to pursue robotic exploration of the solar system; involvement in underwater exploration; PhD at Cornell under Carl Sagan and Joe Veverka for the Voyager project; details of the Voyager mission; dissertation work on the geology and geophysics of Ganymede and Callisto with Gene Shoemaker; postdoc and later job with Pat Cassen and Ray Reynolds at NASA Ames; working on Mars with Michael Carr; reaction to the Challenger tragedy; decision to take position at Cornell and to study the Martian surface; 10 years of proposals to NASA, including one that led to Spirit and Opportunity; Martian habitablity; question of how life arises from non-living material; details of his approach to the Martian geological exploration project; discussion of Spirit and Opportunity’s “honorable” demises; experience as rover’s Primary Investigator (PI) and his internal management strategies; communicating information to the press; reflections on the nature of science; conclusions from Spirit and Opportunity missions; involvement with the Magellan mission; work on the Cassini imaging system; chairing NASA’s planetary decadal survey 2013-2023, recommending Europa Clipper and Perseverance; chairing the NASA Advisory Council; writing Roving Mars; stories of innovative problem-solving from the rover missions; meteorite science; reflections on his time as faculty at Cornell; transition to Blue Origin; and his long-term view of potential space occupation and habitation. Toward the end of the interview, Squyres reflects on the question of whether other lifeforms exist and on the importance of experimentation to answer that question.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Teleconference
Abstract

In this interview, Andreas Albrecht, Distinguished Professor of Physics and Director of the Center for Quantum Mathematics and Physics (QMAP) at the University of California, Davis, discusses his life and career. Albrecht describes the growth of the department since his arrival, his affiliation with QMAP, and the broader effort to integrate more mathematicians into the field of cosmology. He recounts his childhood in Ithaca as the son of two PhD scientists and family sabbatical visits to Santa Cruz and to the Soviet Union. Albrecht describes his budding interests in physics in high school, his undergraduate experience at Cornell and his early exposure to the ideas of Robert Dicke and Alan Guth. He discusses his graduate work at Penn and the circumstances that led him to become Paul Steinhardt’s mentee in cosmology. Albrecht conveys all of the excitement surrounding inflationary cosmology in the early-mid 1980s and the opportunity that led to his postdoctoral appointment with Steve Weinberg’s group at the University of Texas where he became interested in cosmic strings. He describes his subsequent postdoctoral appointment at Los Alamos where he worked with Wojciech Zurek and where his carpools with Geoffrey West proved to be a formative intellectual experience. Albrecht explains his decision to accept a staff position at Fermilab and the contemporary advances in cosmic strings scaling and why primordial nucleosynthesis was uniquely data-oriented relative to other fields in cosmology. He describes his subsequent faculty position at Imperial College in London and he emphasizes the productive and tight-knit cosmology community across the UK. Albrecht conveys the importance of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) experiments and how his ideas of equilibrium cosmology had changed over time and where the term “Boltzman Brains” originated. He describes how UC Davis was rapidly growing and how the opportunity to build a cosmology group was appealing to him. Albrecht explains the origins of his “arrow of time” concept and why this resonates with the broader public’s interests in the universe. He conveys the existential difficulty, and possible impossibility, of developing a credible theory of the beginning of the universe. Albrecht reflects on the spiritual dimensions of cosmological unknowability and the significance of the anthropic principle, and he discusses his efforts as department chair to enhance diversity in the field. At the end of the interview, Albrecht discusses his current work on decoherence and einselection, and he explains why avoiding prejudices in one’s scientific sensibilities is both singularly difficult and key to unlocking future discovery.    

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Dr. Elliot H. Lieb, professor of physics emeritus and professor of mathematical physics at Princeton University. Lieb opens the interview discussing the primary differences between physical mathematics and mathematical physics, and he outlines how modern mathematical ideas have been used in physics. The interview then looks to the past, to Lieb’s childhood and adolescence in New York City, where his passion for physics began. Lieb discusses his experience as a student at MIT, particularly his political involvement during the McCarthy Era. He also mentions his time working at Yeshiva University, and compares the political sentiment there to that at MIT and other universities around the United States. He talks about the work he was able to do abroad in the United Kingdom, Japan, and Sierra Leone, and about the lessons he learned from each of these experiences. Eventually, Lieb returned to Boston and joined the applied math group at MIT, while also working on the six-vertex ice model. In 1975, Lieb moved to Princeton, where he has collaborated with a number of scientists on a variety of topics and papers, including the 1987 AKLT Model (Affleck, Kennedy, Lieb, and Tasaki). The interview ends with Lieb looking to a future of continued experimentation and collaboration on the subjects that interest him most.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
video conference
Abstract

In this interview, Michael Peskin discusses: his childhood in Philadelphia; Alan Luther; particle physics at Cornell; relationship with David Politzer; Leonard Susskind; reactions to Gabriele Veneziano’s string theory paper; overview of Ken Wilson’s career and publications; Thirring model; the Harvard Society of Fellows; Nambu-Jona-Lasinio model; quark confinement work; thinking Beyond-the-Standard-Model (BSM); the problem of electroweak symmetry breakage; Stanley Brodsky and Peter Lepage; work on technicolor models to try to explain the quark and lepton mass spectrum; involvement in discussions around the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC); interest in e+e- colliders; collaboration with Bryan Lynn; question of the mass of the top quark; developing the Introduction to Quantum Field Theory textbook with Daniel Schroeder; impact of the collapse of the SSC on physics research; involvement in planning discussions for the International Linear Collider (ILC); movement into cosmology and astrophysics; dark sector theories; reaction to the term “God particle;” discussion of his book Concepts of Elementary Particle Physics; explanations of various views of the top quark; experiences working with Stanford graduate students; changes at SLAC and its contributions to the field; topics in string theory; AdS/CFT duality; BaBar and Belle experiments and CP violation; current work on electroweak symmetry breaking in Randall-Sundrum models; ILC as the future of high energy physics and physics BSM; China’s proposed Circular Electron Positron Collider (CEPC); technical details of proposed Future Circular Collider (FCC); plasma wake field accelerators; work on particle physics website for Michael Cooke of the DOE; and the technological contributions of particle physics, especially in regards to informatics development, machine learning, and unique sensor development. Toward the end of the interview, Peskin reflects on the utility and limitations of the Standard Model, and details the most likely opportunities for discovery, especially those made possible through the construction of an e+e- collider.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Geoffrey West, Shannan Distinguished Professor at the Santa Fe Institute. West provides a brief history of SFI as a collaborative idea between Murray Gell-Mann, Phil Anderson, and David Pines, and he explains the funding sources that launched the Institute. He recounts his childhood in England and his family’s Jewishly-observant household. West describes his switch from math to physics as an undergraduate at Cambridge and his interest in becoming involved in the origins of SLAC at Stanford. He discusses Panofsky and the “Monster Accelerator,” and studying fold factors of the triton and helium-3 nuclei under the direction of Leonard Schiff. West describes his subsequent postdoctoral work at Cornell and the formative influence of Ken Wilson, and his next position at Harvard where he pursued research on the quark proton model into a kind of a covariant framework. West explains his decision to join the faculty back at Stanford, he conveys the excitement at SLAC in deep inelastic research, and he provides a backdrop of the work that would become the “November Revolution” in 1974. He describes the importance of meeting Peter Carruthers and his reasons for transferring to the theory group at Los Alamos. West discusses his moral conflict working at a Lab with such close ties to nuclear weapon research, and he credits the Manhattan Project as the intellectual source for the Lab’s multidisciplinary approach. West discusses how the culture at Los Alamos served as a prototype for SFI, and how at that point he had migrated intellectually from high energy physics to string theory, and how both organizations encouraged the kind of multidisciplinary approach that encouraged his interests in biological populations. He describes his tenure as SFI president and his developing interest in sustainability, he prognosticates on what the SFI education model could contribute to post-pandemic higher education, and he explains how the pandemic has influenced his views on the future of cities. At the end of the interview, West describes his current interest in biological lifespans and he reflects on the extent to which is unorthodox career trajectory could serve as a model for scientists who will increasingly work in realms less bounded by strict departmental divisions.