Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Location
Teleconference
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

Interview with Marlan Scully, Distinguished University Professor and Burgess Chair at Texas A&M and Distinguished Research Academician at Baylor University. The interview begins with Scully recounting his early experience contracting COVID-19 and how that informed his research into the virus. Then he describes growing up in Wyoming and recalls not being very interested in school until he fell in love with calculus while attending community college. Scully talks about his studies in physics at the University of Wyoming before eventually transferring to Rensselaer Polytechnic. He then discusses his decision to move to Yale to work with Willis Lamb on laser physics. Scully recounts his assistant professorship at MIT and the opportunity at University of Arizona, where he was involved with starting their Optical Sciences Center. He talks about his subsequent joint position between University of New Mexico and Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics, as well as his work with Air Force weapons labs on laser applications. Scully details the events leading to his position at Texas A&M and the inception of the Institute for Quantum Studies, and his ongoing affiliations with Princeton. At the end of the interview, Scully reflects on the interplay between theory and experimentation throughout his career and in laser physics specifically, as well as the technological advances that have propelled laser research forward.

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

Interview with Katherine Freese, Director of the Weinberg Institute for Theoretical Physics, the Jeff and Gail Kodosky Endowed Chair in Physics at UT Austin, and the Director of the Texas Center for Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics (TCCAP). Freese begins the interview with an overview of terminology, such as cosmology, astrophysics, and astroparticle physics and the delineation between these fields. Then she describes her childhood in Bethesda, Maryland where both her parents were scientists. Freese recalls beginning college at age 16, starting at MIT and then transferring to Princeton. She recounts taking time off after her undergraduate studies, before deciding to pursue graduate studies. Freese began grad school at Columbia but switched to the University of Chicago to work on neutrino physics with David Schramm. She discusses her first post-doc at Harvard, working on WIMPs and dark matter, and then her second post-doc at Santa Barbara with Frank Wilczek. Freese then recalls returning to MIT as a professor where she worked with Alan Guth and Josh Frieman on cosmic inflation. She talks about her transition to the University of Michigan and the exciting developments in cosmology at the time, as well as her introduction to dark energy. Freese describes her more recent involvement with NASA’s SPIDER experiment, as well as the honor of being named to the National Academy of Sciences. Freese discusses the amazing opportunity of being the Director at the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics and ends the interview with her hopes for the future of cosmology, namely her hope for finding dark matter.

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

In this interview, Oscar Wallace (Wally) Greenberg recalls his experiences growing up in New Jersey as the child of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe and his accelerated education at Rutgers University and Princeton University, where his advisor was Arthur Wightman. He discusses his dissertation called “The Asymptotic Condition in Quantum Field Theory,” postdocs at Brandeis with S. S. Schweber and at MIT with Francis Low, and early work on high-energy limits and the general structure of quantum field theory. He reflects on his landmark proposal that quarks have a three-valued charge, later called color, as well as the delayed acceptance of the idea, his prediction of later measurements of the excited states of baryons, and his propensity not to promote his contributions. Greenberg also discusses his acceptance of a position at the University of Maryland, where he would spend most of his career, as well as visiting appointments elsewhere, and he offers anecdotes about his interactions with J. Robert Oppenheimer and Albert Einstein at the Institute for Advanced Study. The interview concludes with discussions of what remains unknown in particle physics and of cosmology as a “laboratory” with particle energies not available on Earth. A technical addendum to the interview lists 24 of Greenberg’s key contributions to physics.

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 Peter W. Shor, Morss Professor of Applied Math at MIT. Shor recounts his childhood in Brooklyn and then Washington, DC, and he describes his discovery early in childhood that he had a special aptitude in math. He describes his undergraduate experience at Caltech, where he pursued an interest in combinatronics, and he explains his decision to attend MIT for graduate school, where he studied under Tom Leighton. Shor discusses his graduate work at Bell Labs and he explains how applied math research was relevant to Bell's business model. He describes his thesis research which used math to design good algorithms for computer problem solving, and he discusses his postdoctoral research at the Mathematical Science Research Institute at Berkeley where he focused on computational geometry problems. Shor explains his decision to return to Bell Labs and his focus on optical fibers, and he explains Google's influence in achieving breakthroughs in theoretical computer science. He describes the origins of Shor's Algorithm and Charles Bennett's involvement in this development. Shor explains when true quantum computing became theoretically feasible, and the various budgetary, theoretical, and political challenges that stand between the current state of play and quantum computer realization. He explains his interest in returning to academia at the time Bell Labs was coming apart, and he explains his contributions to advancing quantum information and the utility this has for AdS/CFT research. Shor describes his current interest in black holes and quantum money, and at the end of the interview, he explains why the question of whether NP = P remains fundamental.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview dates
May 24, 25 & 26, 2021
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, Brandon Sorbom, Chief Science Officer at Commonwealth Fusion Systems, discusses the development of his company and interest in nuclear fusion. Sorbom speaks about his time as an undergraduate student at Loyola Marymount University where he majored in Electrical Engineering and Physics and how he discovered his interest in fusion during this time. He describes how his interest in nuclear fusion led him to pursue graduate school at MIT. He details his time as a graduate student working at the MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center, as well as his experience working with his advisor Dennis Whyte. Sorbom discusses how he first became involved in the development of SPARC, whose goal is to generate net energy from fusion, during his time at MIT. He details the variety of investors for his company and the roles he and his cofounders take on within CSF. Sorbom explains CSF’s current project of demonstrating that superconducting magnets at high fields can be used in fusion. Lastly, Sorbom discusses how fusion energy will likely become the dominant form of energy in the future and how it can help combat climate change.