National Academy of Sciences (U.S.)

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
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Peter L. Bender, Senior Research Associate at the University of Colorado and the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics (JILA) in Boulder. Bender recounts his childhood in New Jersey, he describes his undergraduate focus in math and physics at Rutgers, and he explains his decision to pursue a graduate degree in physics at Princeton to work with Bob Dicke. He discusses his dissertation research on optical pumping of sodium vapor, which was suggested by Dicke as a means of doing precision measurements of atoms. Bender discusses his postdoctoral research at the National Bureau of Standards, where he focused on magnetic fields and he narrates the administrative and national security decisions leading to the creation of JILA in Boulder, where the laboratory would be less vulnerable to nuclear attack. He describes his work on laser distance measurements to the moon and his collaborations with NASA, and he discusses his long-term advisory work for the National Academy of Sciences and the National Research Council. Bender describes the origins of the NASA Astrotech 21 Program and the LISA proposal, he explains his more recent interests in massive black holes, geophysics and earth science, and he explains some of the challenges associated with putting optical clocks in space. At the end of the interview, Bender reflects on the central role of lasers in his research, and he explains the intellectual overlap of his work in astrophysics and earth physics, which literally binds research that is based both in this world and beyond it.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, Marcia McNutt discusses: current position as President of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in Washington, D.C.; mission, history, and structure of the NAS; NAS’s work on climate change and COVID-19; experience as a geophysicist; partnering with the National Academies of Engineering and Medicine; childhood in Minnesota; decision to study geophysics; graduate research at Scripps Institution of Oceanography; research on ocean island volcanism in French Polynesia and Hawaii; early use of magnetometers, gravity meters, and seismometers in oceanic plate tectonic observation; development of techniques to take gravity, bathymetry, or topography data on continent and use them in inversion to learn about topography; work directing Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI); time at US Geological Survey (USGS) under Ken Salazar; professorship at MIT and collaboration with Woods Hole; details of leading an oceanographic expedition in the Marquesas Islands; spearheading structural change at MBARI; MBARI-created autonomous device to identify microscopic ocean life without samples; MBARI-invented deep-sea laser Raman spectrometer; being the first organization to put AI on autonomous underwater vehicles to map plumes; response to the Deepwater Horizon spill; fracking; the National Water Census; decision to become editor-in-chief of Science; procedures as editor; career evolution; becoming president of NAS; transition from the Obama to Trump administrations; opinions on geo-engineering; Decadal survey; Koshland Science Museum and LabX; efforts to nominate and elect younger scientists and underrepresented minorities to the Academy; making recommendations to Congress; collaborations with the private sector; communication with the public; and the 2018 Committee on Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s report on sexual harassment in academia. Toward the end of the interview, McNutt reflects on her career as both scientist and leader and the importance of integrity in research.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Lonnie Thompson, Distinguished University Professor at Ohio State University and Senior Scholar at the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center. Thompson describes the administrative history of the Byrd Center and he surveys his current field work in ice core drilling and the role of theory in his research. He provides his perspective on how humanity should respond to climate change and why natural climate fluctuations do not explain the current climate situation. Thompson recounts his childhood in West Virginia and the opportunities that allowed him to pursue a degree in physics at Marshall University. He discusses his graduate research at Ohio State in geophysics and geology while serving in the Army Reserves, and he describes how he developed the Byrd Center. Thompson describes his field work in China and Russia and the value of drilling across the planet. He discusses his work with Al Gore on An Inconvenient Truth and he conveys his feelings about winning the National Medal of Science. Thompson describes working with his wife Ellen Mosley-Thompson as his closest collaborator and what he has learned about conveying his scientific findings to the public. He reflects on the meaning of environmental heroism and the remaining field work that needs to be done after nearly 50 years of drilling. At the end of the interview, Thompson describes his current interest in finding and preserving biodiversity and why the next frontier for ice core drilling will be on Mars and beyond.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Elena Aprile, Centennial Professor of Physics at Columbia University. Aprile describes the feeling of just having been elected to the National Academy of Science and she describes how the XENON Dark Matter search has continued despite the pandemic. She explains why so much of physics is devoted to try to understand dark matter and where she sees the interplay of theory and experiment toward that end. Aprile describes why finding dark matter will mean finding new physics beyond the Standard Model, and she recounts her upbringing in Milan and her developing interests in physics during high school. She describes her first visit to CERN when she was a student at the University of Naples and what it was like to meet Carlo Rubbia. Aprile discusses her graduate work at the University of Geneva where she worked on scattering protons to study time violation effects. She explains her interest in the UA1 and UA2 experiments at CERN and her work on noble liquid detectors, her appointment at Harvard, and her first involvement with radiation spectroscopy. Aprile narrates her realization that xenon would be valuable for astrophysics and dark matter specifically, and she describes the origins of the LXeGRIT telescope project. She explains why Gran Sasso was chosen on the site of the XENON experiment and some of the technical and economic challenges in dealing with xenon on the scale required to search for dark matter. Aprile reflects on the difficulties she has faced as a woman in her field, and she describes the competitive value in having the LZ experiment and its search for dark matter. She explains how one goes about searching for dark matter without knowing what dark matter is. At the end of the interview, Aprile imagines what it will mean to find dark matter, what mysteries it will solve, and why she will remain steadfastly cautious before confirming the discovery. 

Interviewed by
Dan Ford
Interview dates
December 2004
Abstract

In this interview Norman Ramsey discusses topics such as: Richard Garwin, magnetic moments, Edward Purcell, parity, John F. Kennedy assassination, Mark Weiss, Ernest Aschkenasy, Luis Alvarez, Nobel Prize, National Academy of Sciences, Paul Horowitz, acoustics.This interview is part of a collection of interviews on the life and work of Richard Garwin. To see all associated interviews, click here.

Interviewed by
E. Carr Everbach
Interview date
Location
Phone interview
Abstract

In this interview, Floyd Dunn discusses topics such as: the Acoustical Society of America (ASA); biomedical ultrasound; graduate school and working at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; working at the University of Arizona Department of Radiology; advised by Bill Fry; physical acoustics; Henning von Gierke; American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM); his family background; serving in the Army in World War II; acoustic radiation; Bill O'Brien; Leon Frizzell; becoming a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

Interviewed by
Ronald Doel
Interview date
Location
Middleburg, Virginia
Abstract

Descriptions of other Spilhaus oral history interviews that cover childhood as well as career in education and public service; impressions of graduate education at Massachusetts Institute of Technlogy (MIT), early 1930s; work at Sperry Corporation. Meteorological research at MIT (C.-G. Rossby, C. S. Draper); meteorological work with Technical Services, South African Army, 1935-1936. Return to MIT, 1936; develops bathythermograph; life at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Professorship in Meteorology at New York University; impressions of department. Develops ozone research project; post-World War II involvement in numerical weather forecasting (John Von Neumann). Dean of Institute of Technology at University of Minnesota, 1949-1966; involvement in weapons testing, involvement in United States National Committee of the International Geophysical Year; impressions of committee members and its operations. National Academy of Sciences advisory panels on oceanography and waste management. Personal philosophy.

Interviewed by
Katherine Sopka
Interview date
Location
Lyman Laboratory of Physics, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Abstract

Early life in Illinois; B.S. from Purdue University under Karl Lark-Horovitz, 1929-1933. Visit to Technische Hochschule in Karlsruhe. Theoretical and experimental work and teaching at Harvard University, 1934-1941, under Emory L. Chaffee, Kenneth T. Bainbridge, John Van Vleck. World War II research on radar at MIT Radiation Laboratory, 1941-1946. Return to Harvard; teaching, nuclear magnetic resonance and 21-cm line research. Discusses government consulting work, 1950-1970, especially President's Science Advisory Committee, American Physical Society presidency; teaching at Harvard. Interests in astrophysics, developing physics curricula. Also prominently mentioned are: Kenneth Tompkins Bainbridge, Felix Bloch, Bobby Cutler, Robert Henry Dicke, Edwards, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Harold Ewen, Ferry, William Francis Giauque, William Webster Hansen, Malcolm Hebb, Ted Hunt, Lyndon B. Johnson, Fritz Leonhart, Dunlap McNair, Otto Oldenburg, Jan Hendrik Oort, Wolfgang Pauli, Robert V. Pound, Isidor Isaac Rabi, Norman Foster Ramsey, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Schnabel, Julian R. Schwinger, Francis Eugene Simon, Charles Steinmetz, Henry Torrey, Hendrik Christoffell van de Hulst, John Von Neumann, Isidor Walerstein, Walter Witzel, Hubert J. Yearian, Jerrold Reinach Zacharias; Bell System Technical Journal, Great Britain Royal Air Force Coastal Command, Radio Research Laboratory, Illinois Southeastern Telephone Co., Killian Committee, Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, National Academy of Sciences, Rijksuniversiteit te Leiden, Unitarian Church, United States Office of Naval Research, University of California at Berkeley, and Voice of America.

Interviewed by
Katherine Sopka
Interview date
Location
Lyman Laboratory of Physics, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Abstract

Early life in Illinois; B.S. from Purdue University under Karl Lark-Horovitz, 1929-1933. Visit to Technische Hochschule in Karlsruhe. Theoretical and experimental work and teaching at Harvard University, 1934-1941, under Emory L. Chaffee, Kenneth T. Bainbridge, John Van Vleck. World War II research on radar at MIT Radiation Laboratory, 1941-1946. Return to Harvard; teaching, nuclear magnetic resonance and 21-cm line research. Discusses government consulting work, 1950-1970, especially President's Science Advisory Committee, American Physical Society presidency; teaching at Harvard. Interests in astrophysics, developing physics curricula. Also prominently mentioned are: Kenneth Tompkins Bainbridge, Felix Bloch, Bobby Cutler, Robert Henry Dicke, Edwards, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Harold Ewen, Ferry, William Francis Giauque, William Webster Hansen, Malcolm Hebb, Ted Hunt, Lyndon B. Johnson, Fritz Leonhart, Dunlap McNair, Otto Oldenburg, Jan Hendrik Oort, Wolfgang Pauli, Robert V. Pound, Isidor Isaac Rabi, Norman Foster Ramsey, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Schnabel, Julian R. Schwinger, Francis Eugene Simon, Charles Steinmetz, Henry Torrey, Hendrik Christoffell van de Hulst, John Von Neumann, Isidor Walerstein, Walter Witzel, Hubert J. Yearian, Jerrold Reinach Zacharias; Bell System Technical Journal, Great Britain Royal Air Force Coastal Command, Radio Research Laboratory, Illinois Southeastern Telephone Co., Killian Committee, Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, National Academy of Sciences, Rijksuniversiteit te Leiden, Unitarian Church, United States Office of Naval Research, University of California at Berkeley, and Voice of America.