Interview with Robert Schoelkopf, Sterling Professor of Applied Physics and Physics at Yale, and director of the Yale Quantum Institute. Schoelkopf describes the origins of the Quantum Institute and the longer history of quantum research at Yale, and he recounts his childhood in Manhattan and then in Chappaqua as the son of art dealers. He describes his early interests in science and tinkering, and his undergraduate education at Princeton where he worked with Steve Boughn and Jeff Kuhn in the gravity group. Schoelkopf discusses his job at the Goddard Space Flight Center before beginning graduate work at Caltech. He describes his research under the direction of Tom Phillips in detector development for astrophysical applications and Josephson junctions, and he explains his ambition to focus on developing devices. Schoelkopf discusses his postdoctoral research at Yale to work with Dan Prober on mesascopic physics, and he explains his involvement in microwave research for quantum information and his explorations into the limits of electrometry. He discusses the opportunities that led to his faculty appointment at Yale, his involvement in building qubits and what this would portend for the future of quantum information. Schoelkopf describes the formative influence of Michel Devoret and Steve Girvin and he explains how these collaborations contributed to upending some aspects of theoretical quantum information. He describes how qubit research has matured over the past twenty years and how this research has contributed to industry and commercial ventures, but why he remains focused on basic science within a university setting. At the end of the interview, Schoelkopf predicts some of the practical contributions that true quantum computing can offer society and why he is excited about the next generation of quantum information scientists.
In this interview, Sandra Faber, Professor Emerita in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, UC Santa Cruz and Astronomer Emerita at the University of California Observatories discusses her career and her involvement in various projects. Faber describes the relationship between these appointments, and she describes some of the benefits that remote work has allowed during the Covid-19 pandemic. She describes the DEIMOS spectrograph project as an outgrowth from her interest in galaxy formation and the centrality of steady state theory to this research. Faber discusses the importance of NSF support for her work, and she explains some of the cultural sensitivities in setting up a major telescope project in Hawaii. She explains the difference between ancient and more recent galaxy formation, and she explains how the next generation of spectrographs has surpassed what DEIMOS has been able to achieve. Faber discusses the famous optical flaw that threatened the viability of the Hubble Telescope and how this issue was resolved and the import of the CANDELS project. She explains the value of advanced computing for black hole quenching models, and she discusses her long-term collaboration with Chinese scientists and some of the political and international considerations inherent in these partnerships. Faber describes the origins of the Osterbrock Leadership Program and its value for fostering the careers of the next generation of scientists. At the end of the interview, Faber describes the meaning of “Cosmic Knowledge,” and she explains how this concept of humanity’s greater appreciation of our place in the universe can have ethically positive and long-lasting impacts beyond astronomy.
Interview with Anne Kinney, Deputy Center Director of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Kinney recounts her childhood in Wisconsin and her early interests in science. She describes her undergraduate experience at the University of Wisconsin where she pursued degrees in physics and astronomy. Kinney discusses her time in Denmark at the Niels Bohr Institute before completing her graduate work at NYU relating to the International Ultraviolet Explorer. She explains the opportunities leading to her postdoctoral appointment at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore where she focused on obtaining optical data and near-infrared data to understand spectral energy distribution for quasars and blazars. Kinney discusses her work on the aberrated Hubble Telescope and her new job at NASA Headquarters where she became head of Origins before she was transferred to Goddard where she became division direct of the Planetary Division. She describes Goddard’s efforts to promote diversity and she describes her subsequent position as chief scientist at Keck Observatory before returning to Washington to join the National Science Foundation to be head of the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences. Kinney provides a broad view of the NSF budgetary environment, and she explains the circumstances that led her back to NASA to her current work. She describes where Goddard fits into NASA’s overall mission and she explains her interest in promoting NASA in an educational framework to children. At the end of the interview, Kinney conveys her excitement about the James Webb Telescope and why she is committed to ensuring that NASA is a driver behind the broader effort to make astronomy and physics more diverse.
This is an interview with Janice Steckel, research scientist at the National Energy Technology Lab and visiting scientist at the University of Pittsburgh. Steckel recounts her childhood in Maryland and what it was like to grow up learning from her father, who was a physicist at the Naval Research Lab and then at the Goddard Space Flight Center. Steckel explains that she was not interested in science growing up, and she describes her major in dance at the University of Maryland and then at Ohio State. Steckel explains her decision to pursue a degree in chemistry in her late 20s and how this developed into her academic specialty in physical chemistry at the University of West Virginia. She discusses her graduate work at the University of Pittsburgh to focus on density functional theory with Ken Jordan. Steckel describes her postdoctoral research at the Vienna Ab initio Simulation Package Group, and she explains the opportunities that led to her initial appointment at NETL. She discusses her initial research on mercury and its impact on coal burning for power generation. Steckel explains her transition to the carbon capture group at the Lab and she describes the different options available to capture and sequester carbon emissions. She describes NETL’s role in the larger federal framework for national energy policy, and she shares her views on how carbon-based energy sources will play a role in an increasingly de-carbonized future. At the end of the interview, Steckel explains the value of computational integration to her work and the promise that machine learning offers for the future of energy research.
In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Meg Urry, Israel Munson Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Yale University, and Director of the Yale Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics. She recounts her childhood in Indiana and then in Boston and she discusses her family background and what she gained as a result of having a father who was a professor of chemistry. Urry describes her undergraduate experience at Tufts, where she developed her career interests in physics, and she describes a formative summer working at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, where she became the first person to identify the first gravitational lens source of a background quasar. Urry discusses the circumstances leading to her graduate work at Johns Hopkins, where she conducted research with Art Davidsen, and she explains how she got her first job at the Goddard Space Flight Center where she spent a majority of her time during graduate school. She describes her research with Richard Mushotzky on blazars, and she explains some of the cultural differences between physics, which she felt was overly hierarchical and astronomy, which was more laid back and which employed many more women. Urry discusses her postdoctoral research on Seyfert galaxy spectra at MIT with Claude Canizares, who at the time was building the Chandra X-ray Observatory. She describes her second postdoctoral position at the Space Telescope Science Institute where she focused on the unification of radio-loud AGN, and she describes the decisions that led to her first full-time job at Space Telescope. She describes the high-pressure work environment at Space Telescope, and some of the structural disadvantages she experienced as a woman. Urry reflects on some of the shifting distinctions in the terms astronomy and astrophysics, and she explains the centrality of supermassive black holes during her tenure at Space Telescope. Urry recounts her decision to join the physics faculty at Yale, and she describes her excitement at the prospect of teaching in an academic environment. She describes how she maintained her collaborations with her former colleagues associates with the Hubble telescope. Urry describes tenure as chair of the department, and she reflects on her efforts to encourage a culture of greater diversity and inclusivity in the department, where she championed the recognition and promotion of many women and people of color, and she shares her ideas on how the physics community can work collectively to continue to advance this work. Urry discusses her work as president of the American Astronomical Society, and she reflects on the lessons of perseverance she learned from her father. At the end of the interview, Urry provides an overview of the current state of research on supermassive black holes, and she describes her work conveying scientific concepts to a broader audience. At the end of the interview, Urry explains the specific threats that science faces in a culture of eroding trust in public institutions.
In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Charles Bennett, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and in the Applied Physics Laboratory at the Johns Hopkins University. He recounts his childhood in suburban Washington, D.C., and he describes the influence of his father, who was a physicist with the National Bureau of Standards. He describes his early interests in radio waves and telescopes. He describes his decision to attend the University of Maryland on the basis of its excellent reputation in radio astronomy, and he discusses his interests in instrumentation and his work at the Clark Lake Radio Observatory. Bennett describes the circumstances regarding his decision to attend MIT for graduate school, where he worked with Bernie Burke on analyzing radio observatory data. He discusses his career at Goddard at NASA and his involvement in some of the major missions of the time, including COBE and WMAP. Bennett describes his decision to join the faculty at Hopkins, and the ways in which his research changed in an academic setting. He discusses his current interest in the Hubble constant measurement and the importance in conveying scientific concepts to the broader public. At the end of the interview, Bennett shares his thoughts on how the scientific community can continue to progress in areas relating to diversity and inclusivity in the field, and he relates that his sense of wonder at what can be learned by looking at the universe remains much the same as when he was a boy.
In this interview, David Zierler interviews Dr. Lynnae Quick, Ocean Worlds Planetary Geophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Quick discusses the past year and the challenges associated with increasing diversity in the field, and she recounts her childhood in North Carolina. She describes her early interests in science and her undergraduate experience at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University and the value of attending an HBCU. Quick discusses her initial graduate work at Catholic University and a formative internship she spent working with Aki Roberge at Goddard on exoplanets and how she became interested in planetary geology and ultimately cyrovolcanism. Quick explains her decision to transfer to Johns Hopkins where there were more opportunities to study planetary science and to work with Bruce Marsh and Louise Prockter as a co-advisor. She discusses her thesis research on Europa, and she explains when it is possible to extrapolate findings on one exoplanet to others. Quick describes her postdoctoral research with Lori Glaze on cryovolcanism on Venus at Goddard and explains the relevance of this field to astrobiology. She describes her first staff scientist position at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum where she worked on the Europa Clipper mission and she describes the opportunity to join Goddard in a full time position, where she picked back up on the cryovolcanism research she had some as a postdoctoral researcher. Quick discusses her current work on extrasolar planets. At the end of the interview, Quick surveys the state of diversity and inclusivity in the field, and the work that remains to be done building on the efforts undertaken over the past year, and she conveys optimism that imaging geysers on Europa could yield evidence of life.
In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Dr. Lynnae Quick, Ocean Worlds Planetary Geophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Quick discusses the past year and the challenges associated with increasing diversity in the field, and she recounts her childhood in North Carolina. She describes her early interests in science and her undergraduate experience at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University and the value of attending an HBCU. Quick discusses her initial graduate work at Catholic University and a formative internship she spent working with Aki Roberge at Goddard on exoplanets and how she became interested in planetary geology and ultimately cyrovolcanism. Quick explains her decision to transfer to Johns Hopkins where there were more opportunities to study planetary science and to work with Bruce Marsh and Louise Prockter as a co-advisor. She discusses her thesis research on Europa, and she explains when it is possible to extrapolate findings on one exoplanet to others. Quick describes her postdoctoral research with Lori Glaze on cryovolcanism on Venus at Goddard and explains the relevance of this field to astrobiology. She describes her first staff scientist position at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum where she worked on the Europa Clipper mission and she describes the opportunity to join Goddard in a full time position, where she picked back up on the cryovolcanism research she had some as a postdoctoral researcher. Quick discusses her current work on extrasolar planets. At the end of the interview, Quick surveys the state of diversity and inclusivity in the field, and the work that remains to be done building on the efforts undertaken over the past year, and she conveys optimism that imaging geysers on Europa could yield evidence of life.
In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews John Mather, senior astrophysicist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and senior project scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope. Mather recounts his childhood in rural New Jersey and the benefits of pursuing a physics education at a small school like Swarthmore. He discusses his research at Berkeley and the value of pursuing dissertation research based on an unsuccessful research experiment. Mather describes his work at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the decisions that led to his participation at NASA in the COBE satellite team that measured the heat radiation of the Big Bang. Mather narrates what it was like to learn he won the Nobel Prize for this work, and describes his current work and excitement about the James Webb Telescope.
In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Chryssa Kouveliotou, professor of physics at George Washington University. Kouveliotou recounts her childhood in Greece and her early interests in physics. She describes her studies and political interests as an undergraduate at the National University of Athens. Kouveliotou explains her work at the University of Sussex where she pursued research in optical astronomy. She recounts her work in extraterrestrial physics at the Max Planck Institute and she describes the origins of gamma ray astronomy. Kouveliotou discusses her cultural introduction to the United States and her work at the Goddard Space Flight Center where she studied gamma ray bursts for her graduate thesis. Kouveliotou explains her academic work in Greece after her graduate studies and her research at the Institute for Space Physics, Astronomy and Education where she worked with data from the BATSE project and continued research on gamma ray bursts. She explains her move to NASA headquarters and her current work as a faculty member at GW. In the last portion of the interview Kouveliotou explains her long-term work in the field of magnetars.