Interview with Margaret Murnane, professor of physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder, fellow at JILA, and director of the NSF STROBE Science and Technology Center. Murnane recounts her childhood in Ireland and emphasizes that, culturally, she was encouraged to pursue her interests in science from a young age. She discusses her undergraduate education at University College Cork where she focused on physics and developed her specialties in experimentation with light. Murnane describes the opportunities leading to her graduate work at UC Berkeley, where, for her thesis research, she developed a high-power femtosecond laser to create X-ray emitting plasma. She describes her first faculty appointment at Washington State University in Pullman where she continued work in ultrafast laser science, and she explains the decision to transfer to the University of Michigan at the Center for Ultrafast Optics. Murnane discusses her subsequent decision to join the faculty at JILA, where the instrumentation and opportunities for collaboration in her field were peerless. She describes the centrality of achieving very fast X-ray pulses to her field, and she describes some recent advances in applications such as EUV lithography. Murnane discusses the work that remains to be done to ensure that STEM promotes diversity and inclusivity, and she reflects on the many excellent graduate students she has mentored. At the end of the interview, Murnane conveys her excitement at the possibilities offered in the future of ultrafast lasers, including the ability of real-time microscopes that can make three-dimensional nanoscale and A-scale movies.
Interview with John Preskill, Richard P. Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at Caltech, and Director of the Institute for Quantum Information and Matter at Caltech. Preskill describes the origins of IQIM as a research pivot from the initial excitement in the 1970s to move beyond Standard Model physics and to understand the origin of electroweak symmetry breaking. He emphasizes the importance of Shor’s algorithm and the significance of bringing Alexei Kitaev into the project. Preskill discusses the support he secured from the NSF and DARPA, and he recounts his childhood in Chicago and his captivation with the Space Race. He describes his undergraduate experience at Princeton and his relationship with Arthur Wightman and John Wheeler. Preskill explains his decision to pursue his thesis research at Harvard with the intention of working with Sidney Coleman, and he explains the circumstances that led to Steve Weinberg becoming his advisor. He discusses the earliest days of particle theorists applying their research to cosmological inquiry, his collaboration with Michael Peskin, and his interest in the connection of topology with particle physics. Preskill describes his research on magnetic monopoles, and the relevance of condensed matter theory for his interests. He explains the opportunities that led to his appointment to the Harvard Society of Fellows and his eventual faculty appointment at Harvard, his thesis work on technicolor, and the excitement surrounding inflation in the early 1980s. Preskill discusses the opportunities that led to his tenure at Caltech and why he started to think seriously about quantum information and questions relating to thermodynamic costs to computing. He explains the meaning of black hole information, the ideas at the foundation of Quantum Supremacy, and he narrates the famous story of the Thorne, Hawking, and Preskill bets. Preskill describes the advances in quantum research which compelled him to add “matter” to the original IQI project which was originally a purely theoretical endeavor. He discusses the fact that end uses for true quantum computing remain open questions, and he surveys IQIM’s developments over the past decade and the strategic partnerships he has pursued across academia, industry, and at the National Labs. Preskill surveys the potential value of quantum computing to help solve major cosmological mysteries, and why his recent students are captivated by machine learning. At the end of the interview, Preskill reflects on his intersecting interests and conveys optimism for future progress in understanding quantum gravity from laboratory experiments using quantum simulators and quantum gravity.
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.
In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Sean L. Jones, Assistant Director for the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the National Science Foundation. Jones recounts his father’s scientific career at IBM and his own childhood in South Carolina, and the opportunities he had to pursue his interests in math and science. He discusses his undergraduate work in ceramic engineering at Clemson and the opportunities for him to become a McKnight Fellow at the University of Florida for graduate school, where he worked on increasing the luminescence of thin film phosphorous. He describes his postgraduate work at Bell Labs and how the internet bubble affected him at the turn of the century. Jones discusses his subsequent work as a professor of optical engineering at Norfolk State University and the enjoyment he derived in teaching at an HBCU. He explains why meeting Bruce Kramer at NSF was so formative and why he chose to join NSF as a program director after working at Applied Plasmonics. Jones describes the flatness of the NSF’s organizational structure and how the Obama administration’s commitment to science and technology research resonated for his program. He discusses his work at the OSTP in the Executive Branch and his tenure as Executive Secretary of the National Science Board. Jones discusses his increasing responsibilities at NSF and the overall improvement of the budgetary environment since he started. He talks about the current opportunities to expand diversity in STEM and his current work in managing research support as costs continually rise. At the end of the interview, Jones explains why the appetite for taking risk must be central to the future of good scientific policy at the national level.
Interview with Joseph DeSimone, Sanjiv Sam Gambhir Professor of Translational Medicine and Professor of Chemical Engineering at Stanford. DeSimone describes Gambhir’s pioneering work in molecular imaging, and he explains the value in his multiple departmental appointments for his research agenda. He recounts his upbringing in the Philadelphia area and his undergraduate focus on polymer chemistry at Ursinus College. DeSimone discusses his graduate research in the same field at Virginia Tech, where he studied CO2 polymers under the direction of James McGrath. He explains the opportunities that led to his appointment at UNC Chapel Hill, and he discusses the research advantage of his dual position at NCSU. DeSimone discusses his advisory work for the NSF, and he describes how he became involved in bio-nanotechnology and gene therapy research. He explains his increasing interests in entrepreneurial research. He narrates the origins of the Carbon 3D company and the possibilities he saw in 3D printing. DeSimone reflects on the fantastic financial success of the company, and he explains his decision to return to academia at Stanford, and at the end of the interview, he describes the value of Peter Thiel’s “Zero to One” approach for science research.
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.
This is an interview with Martha Krebs, former director of the Consortium for Building Energy Innovation for Penn State in Philadelphia and advisor to the Defense Science Study Group at the Institute for Defense Analysis. She recounts her childhood in postwar Japan and then central Pennsylvania, and she describes her interest in science and the formative influence of Sputnik on her ambitions during her time in a Catholic high school. Krebs explains her decision to attend Catholic University where she knew she wanted to pursue a degree in physics from the beginning. She discusses the importance of securing a National Science Foundation graduate fellowship and the family considerations that influenced her decision to stay at Catholic for graduate school, where she studied under Tomoyasu Tanaka, who was working on hydrogen bonds in ferroelectrics. Krebs describes the opportunities leading to her first postgraduate job in the Science Policy Research Division of the Congressional Research Service which led to her work on the Energy Subcommittee of the Science and Technology Committee, and she provides context on the major issues relating to federal energy policy in the mid-1970s and the rebalancing of power between the White House and Congress in the post-Watergate era. She narrates the origins of the Department of Energy during the Carter administration and she describes the circumstances that led to her tenure as staff director of the Energy Subcommittee which was becoming increasingly important to national developments in renewable and efficient energy sources. Krebs describes the major partisan and industry dynamics that shaped her work on the committee, particularly with the ascendancy of the conservative movement in the 1980s. She explains her decision to move to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which was looking to reinvent itself beyond high-energy physics with new projects in relativistic heavy ion collider projects. She describes the central influence of the Cooperative Research and Development Agreements in the relationship between the Lab and the DOE, and she describes the events leading to her work as director of the Office of Science in the DOE for the Clinton administration. Krebs discusses the collapse of the SSC project at the beginning of her tenure and her contributions to the Office of Energy Research and the applied R & D programs and how she understood the relationship between DOE and OMB on science policy generally during the Clinton years. She describes the state of high energy physics during this time and the DOE’s involvement in nanotechnology research, her decision to join the California NanoSystems Institute, and then her decision to become director of energy efficiency at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. At the end of the interview, Krebs reflects on her career and offers insight into how U.S. national policy can be best directed toward further gains in energy efficiency into the future.
In this interview, William Hartmann of the Acoustical Society of American interviews William Yost, Research Professor of Speech and Hearing Sciences at Arizona State University. Yost discusses his graduate work on signal detection at Indiana University, the development of his Fundamentals of Hearing textbook, co-authored with Donald Nielson, and his early research into noise control at the University of Florida. Yost describes his activities with the Acoustical Society of America, his efforts to promote hearing science at NIH and NSF, and the ASA’s relationship with the Association for Research in Otolaryngology. The interview concludes with a discussion of Yost’s research into modulation detection interference and his move to his current position at Arizona State University.
In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews the Honorable France Córdova, former Director of the National Science Foundation. Córdova recounts her childhood in Europe and then Southern California. She discusses her experiences in Catholic school and her decision to study at Stanford as an undergraduate, where she did not focus on science. Córdova explains her initial desire to pursue graduate work in anthropology until a series of events led to her employment at Caltech and ultimately, her dissertation work in astrophysics and data analysis. Córdova discusses her work at Los Alamos and her faculty appointment at Penn State. She describes her tenures as Chancellor at University of California Riverside, NASA administrator, and as President of Purdue, and she explains her main goals and accomplishments in each of these positions. In the latter portion of the interview, Córdova describes her work at Director of the NSF and she provides a detailed overview of science policy and funding during her years serving in the Obama administration.
In this interview Harold Agnew discusses topics such as: his time at the University of Chicago and Enrico Fermi; Columbia University; John Manley; George Weil; Los Alamos during World War II; Seth Neddermeyer; J. Robert Oppenheimer; George Kistiakowsky; Luis Alvarez; Bill Penny; National Science Foundation scholarship; nuclear physics; Laura Fermi; Richard Garwin; Don Hornig; General Atomics; Freddie de Hoffmann; Ed Creutz.