Johns Hopkins University

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Surjeet Rajendran, Associate Professor of Physics at Johns Hopkins University. He provides an overview of his current research activities with David Kaplan in black hole physics, new short distance forces, and modifications of quantum mechanics, and he shares his reaction on the recent g-2 muon anomaly at Fermilab. Rajendran explains why he identifies as a “speculator” in physics, he recounts his childhood in Chennai, India, and he discusses his grandparents’ communist activism, his Jesuit schooling, and how science offered a refuge for rebellion from these influences. He explains his decision to transfer from the Indian Institute of Technology to Caltech as an undergraduate, where he worked with Alan Weinstein on LIGO. Rajendran discusses his graduate research at Stanford, where KIPAC had just started, and where Savas Dimopoulos supervised his work on PPN parameters and solving the seismic noise problem on atom interferometers for LIGO. He describes his postdoctoral work, first at MIT and then at Johns Hopkins, when he began to collaborate with Kaplan on axion detection and the electroweak hierarchy problem. Rajendran explains the rise and fall of the BICEP project, and his Simons Foundation supported work on CASPEr. He discusses his interest in bouncing cosmology and firewalls in general relativity, and he conveys optimism that LIGO will advance our understanding of black hole information. At the end of the interview, Rajendran reviews his current interests in the Mössbauer effect, and explains how nice it was to win the New Horizons in Physics prize, and he prognosticates on how the interplay between observational and theoretical cosmology will continue to evolve and perhaps resolve fundamental and outstanding questions in the field.

Interviewed by
William Thomas
Interview date
Location
American Institute of Physics, College Park, Maryland
Abstract

In this interview, former Niels Bohr Archive Director Finn Aaserud reflects on his career, including his work as a postdoctoral historian at the American Institute of Physics. Aaserud discusses his education in physics at the University of Oslo and his decision to focus his work on the history of Max Planck’s concept of the quantum. He recalls his decision to pursue a degree in the history of science at Johns Hopkins University, with Russell McCormmach as his advisor, and his research on Niels Bohr’s leadership of the Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of Copenhagen in the 1930s. He reflects that some scholars, particularly those invested in Bohr’s image as an intellectual, objected to the portrait he presented of Bohr as a skilled fundraiser. Aaserud recalls his move to AIP and his experiences working on the history of the JASON science advisory group. The interview concludes with Aaserud’s memories of receiving the offer to direct the Niels Bohr Archive in Copenhagen, his experiences in that role, his editing of Bohr’s collected works, and the history of the strong relationship between the archive and the Center for History of Physics and Niels Bohr Library & Archives at AIP.

Interviewed by
Ilene Busch-Vishniac
Interview date
Location
Louisville, Kentucky
Abstract

In this interview organized through the Acoustical Society of America, the discussion begins with West’s experiences as a member of the society before moving into his family background and youth in Virginia, education at Hampton Institute and Temple University, and military service in the Korean War. West describes his employment with Bell Labs and his work on the electret microphone, for which he and Gerhard Sessler would be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. He also discusses his experiences as a Black member of the technical staff at Bell Labs, the importance of being in a research environment with people of similar backgrounds, and the creation and successes of the Association of Black Laboratory Employees (ABLE). West further describes his work in the acoustics of concert halls and hospitals and on the design of devices for taking medical measurements. The interview concludes with West highlighting his work during his presidency of ASA to expand its reach in Latin America and to attract and support people of Hispanic origin to acoustics.

Interviewed by
Jennifer Lentz
Interview date
Location
Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana
Abstract

Interview with Diane Kewley-Port, Professor Emeritus at Indiana University in the Speech and Hearing Department. Kewley-Port recounts her involvement in the Acoustical Society of America over the years, including serving as Chair of the Speech Technical Committee, member of the Executive Council, and Vice President. She describes her childhood in Cleveland and her early interest in science and engineering. Kewley-Port then discusses her undergrad and graduate years at University of Michigan, as well as the year she spent working in Denmark for a Danish computer company. She also talks about her time as a research assistant in the Neurocommunications Lab at Johns Hopkins, as well as at Haskins Laboratories, before pursuing her PhD at City University of New York. Kewley-Port reflects on how important ASA has been throughout her career, especially the mentorship and support she has received. 

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Marc Kamionkowski, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins University. He discusses his family heritage of Ashkenazi Jews who left Eastern Europe for Argentina, and his father’s medical research which took the family to Cleveland. Kamionkowski recounts his childhood in Shaker Heights, and he describes his undergraduate work at Washington University, where he switched from pre-med to physics to work with Marty Israel and Joe Klarmann. Despite his lack of preparation, Kamionkowski explains his admission to the University of Chicago, and he describes “the bug” that made him focus on physics and drive to succeed in quantum mechanics and understand quantum field theory. He discusses his thesis research under the direction of Michael Turner on energetic neutrinos from WIMP annihilation in the sun. Kamionkowski discusses his post-doctoral research at the Institute for Advanced Study where he was in Frank Wilczek’s particle theory group. He describes his first faculty appointment at Columbia and how experimental advances had opened up opportunities in cosmology. He explains his decision to move to Caltech because of its strength in theoretical astrophysics and where he became director of the Moore Center. Kamionkowski discusses his subsequent move to Johns Hopkins, and he surveys his recent projects on the Hubble Tension and early dark energy. At the end of the interview, Kamionkowski explains why he has always valued research that bridges the divide between theory and experimentation and why he expects this will continue to inform his broad research agenda.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Raman Sundrum, distinguished university professor of physics at the University of Maryland. Sundrum recounts his childhood in India, Maryland, and Australia and he describes his life as the child of an international economist with the UN and the World Bank, and a pediatrician. He describes his undergraduate experience at Sydney University where he majored in physics and where he learned that his abilities were in theory. Sundrum discusses his time as a graduate student at Yale, where he was accepted to the math department, and he explains how he immediately shifted over to physics. He explains his initial difficulty settling on a research focus under the direction of Laurence Krauss before he developed a relationship with Mark Soldate and settled on thesis research on particle theory beyond the Standard Model. Sundrum discusses his postdoctoral work at Berkeley, where he spent time at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. He describes being recruited by Howard Georgi to do postdoctoral work at Harvard, and he explains how he collaborated with Lisa Randall and how the Randall-Sundrum papers originated. Sundrum describes the impact of this collaboration on research in supersymmetry, and he explains the events leading to his tenure at Johns Hopkins. He explains how his research focus shifted to cosmology and he discusses his decision to switch to a faculty position at Maryland, where he became director of the Center for Fundamental Physics. At the end of the interview Sundrum explains his longstanding fascination with metaphysical ideas, and he reflects on the importance of developing intellectual maturity over the course of one’s career.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Joseph Silk, Homewood Research Professor of Physics at Johns Hopkins, Researcher Emeritus at the Institute of Astrophysics in Paris, and Senior Fellow at the Beecroft Institute for Cosmology and Astro-Particle Physics. Silk recounts his childhood in London as the child of working-class parents, and he describes his early interests in math and his acceptance to Cambridge. He discusses the influence of the fluid dynamicist George Batchelor and the gravitational theorist Denis Sciama, and his decision to pursue graduate work at Manchester before enrolling at Harvard for his PhD research under the direction of David Layzer. Silk describes the revolutionary discovery of the cosmic microwave background and some of the observational advances that were driving the young field of cosmology and galaxy formation. He discusses his postdoctoral appointment with Fred Hoyle back at Cambridge and his next research position working with Lyman Spitzer at Princeton, and with Jerry Ostriker on black holes and pulsars. Silk describes the circumstances leading to his first faculty appointment at Berkeley and the excitement surrounding the high red shift universe, the birth of X-ray astronomy, and he describes Berkeley Laboratory’s gradual emphasis on astrophysics over his 30-year career at UC Berkeley. He discusses his long-term research endeavor to verify the prediction of the Big Bang theory and the incredible results of the COBE project. Silk describes his budding interests in particle astrophysics, which he considers a discipline distinct from astronomy, cosmology and astrophysics, and which grew from cosmic inflation. He describes the import and future prospects of supersymmetry, how his namesake contribution “Silk damping” came about, and he conveys his excitement about moon-based telescopes. Silk draws a distinction between understanding the very beginning of the universe (t = 0) and the tiniest fraction of time after that (t = epsilon) and why an understanding quantum gravity will be necessary to make advances in this field. He discusses the current controversy around the Hubble constant, he describes his decision to transfer from Berkeley to Oxford and how this led to his current slate of affiliations, including his appointment at Johns Hopkins. At the end of the interview, Silk discusses his current interests in the moon telescope project and what the legal ramifications of a permanent moon presence might look like and why, in his popular talks, he finds it important to project a sense of awe about the universe.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with John K. Delaney, Senior Imaging Scientist at the National Gallery of Art. He discusses the datasets he has been analyzing during the pandemic, and he recounts his childhood in Boston. Delaney describes his experience at Rockefeller University and his interest in phototherapies and measuring porphyrins under the direction of Dave Mauzerall. He discusses his postdoctoral research at the University of Arizona to study rhodopsin molecules and following the changes in protein structure after excitation by light. Delaney describes his interests in biophysics and his subsequent postdoctoral position at Johns Hopkins as an NIH fellow working in the lab of Sriram Subramaniam, before taking a job in industry as an optical engineer. He explains the circumstances of his initial involvement at the National Gallery of Art and the Gallery’s realization of the value of spectroscopy for analysis and preservation of paintings. Delaney describes how he built an expertise on hyperspectral imaging. He explains why the Gallery supported this work and how a global community developed for this field. He explains the value of his work for art authentication and the opportunities he has pursued in public outreach. At the end of the interview, Delaney explains some of the key physics concepts that inform his work, and he describes his ambition to write a book on reflectance imaging spectroscopy of paintings.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Adam Riess, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins, and Distinguished Astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute. Riess explains the value of his dual affiliation and his focus on calibrating the Hubble Telescope for cosmological experiments. He recounts his childhood in New Jersey and the “boot camp” style of physics education he received at MIT. Riess explains his decision to go to Harvard for his graduate work, where Bob Kirshner advised his thesis research on supernovae, while he worked closely with Bill Press on data analysis. He describes his field work at Mount Hopkins in Arizona and his use of the early internet to collect and share data, and he explains what we did not previously understand about supernovae and how that prevented an earlier understanding that the universe’s expansion is accelerating. Riess describes working closely with Brian Schmidt and Nick Suntzeff and how the High-Z team came together, and he explains the decision to use the term “accelerating” to describe the findings from the research. He describes being unprepared for the enormous reaction the High-Z team received after it published its findings, and he explains the opportunities that led to his staff appointment at Space Telescope. Riess narrates his sense of when the “buzz” for the Nobel Prize started and he related the sense of bedlam when the announcement was made and his immediate plan to make this a recognition for the entire High-Z team. He explains how the world of dark energy research has opened up since the discovery and he surveys advances in instrumentation that have propelled the field forward in the last twenty years. At the end of the interview, Riess discusses his current focus on the Hubble tension, he conveys his excitement for the launch of the James Webb Telescope, and he shares that he can’t wait to meet students that he has never seen in person after a year of pandemic-mandated virtual interactions.

 

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Videoconference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Michael Anastasio, Director Emeritus of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.  Anastasio recounts his childhood in suburban Washington DC and he describes his early intellectual pursuits in math and science.  He discusses his undergraduate experience at Johns Hopkins, where his original plan was to learn enough physics to teach it at the college level.  He explains his decision to pursue a graduate degree at Stony Brook, where he worked under the direction of Tom Kuo in the nuclear theory group on the effective interaction in many body systems. Anastasio describes his postdoctoral research in Europe, where he worked on the meson exchange theory for the nuclear force.  He discusses his year at Brooklyn College, and he describes that circumstances leading to his work at Livermore Lab.  Anastasio recounts his work on nuclear weapons stockpile issues in the “B Division,” and how Cold War security policy affected the laboratory’s mission and focus.  He explains his increasing responsibilities as a division leader and then associate director at Livermore, and he discusses his work as scientific advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Energy for Defense Programs.  Anastasio explains the impact of September 11 at Livermore, and he describes his tenure as director, where he was focused on maintaining the long-term viability of the lab.  He describes the circumstances surrounding his decision to become director of Los Alamos and he reflects on the differences and similarities of the challenges of this new position.  At the end of the interview, Anastasio describes the ongoing relevance of the research at Los Alamos in both nuclear weapons and basic science.