University of California, Berkeley

Interviewed by
David Zierler
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Video conference
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This is an interview with Claire Max, Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz, and Director of University of California Observatories. Max recounts her childhood in Manhattan, and she describes the formative influence of her father’s work in science on her blossoming academic interests. She describes her undergraduate education at Radcliffe where she pursued a degree in astronomy, and the opportunities leading to her graduate degree at Princeton where she studied pulsars under the direction of Francis Perkins. Max discusses her postdoctoral research at Berkeley working with Allan Kaufman and her subsequent work at Livermore Lab on laser plasma interactions, and where she did formative work developing laser guide stars for adaptive optics in astronomy. She describes her entrée into the JASON advisory group, and what it was like as the first woman to become a JASON. Max explains her decision to join the faculty at Santa Cruz, the opportunities leading to her directorship of the Observatory, and her interest in leading research in extrasolar planets. She reflects on some of the budgetary and administrative challenges she has faced at the Observatory, and she discusses some of the characteristics that her most successful graduate students have shared over the years. At the end of the interview, Max discusses the controversy over the Thirty Meter Telescope site in Hawaii, she explains why promoting diversity in the field is personally important to her, and why future advances in galaxy merger research are so promising.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
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Video conference
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Interview with George Paulikas, retired Executive Vice President of the Aerospace Corporation. Paulikas describes his birth country of Lithuania and his family’s experiences in World War II and the convoluted path that brought his family to the United States in 1949. He recounts his teenage years in Chicago and his undergraduate education, at the University of Illinois, first at Chicago and then Champaign-Urbana where he majored in engineering physics. Paulikas discusses his graduate research at UC Berkeley where he focused on plasma physics under the direction of Ken Watson, he describes his first job at Aerospace as a member of the Space Physics Laboratory, and he explains the historical origins of the corporation, and its key mission to assist the U.S. Air Force in the planning, development, acquisition, and operations of national security space systems. Paulikas describes his ascent at Aerospace as Lab Director and the emphasis on basic research that ensured his integration with the broader space physics community. He explains the circumstances of being named Vice President of the Laboratories, then Vice President of the Development Group, where he focused on planning functions future Air Force systems. Paulikas describes Aerospace as a Federally Funded Research and Development Center and he discusses some of the major projects at the corporation, including the Manned Orbiting Laboratory, the Space Transportation System, the creation of GPS, and its involvement in Reagan’s SDI program. He discusses his subsequent role as Senior Vice President of Programs and his focus on getting space launches right before he was named Executive Vice President. At the end of the interview, Paulikas reflects on how Aerospace responded to the end of the Cold War and its increasing emphasis on space exploration, and he emphasizes his pride in his record of mentorship.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
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Video conference
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In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Jagdish (Jay) Narayan, John C.C. Fan Family Distinguished Chair Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at North Carolina State University. Narayan explains his approach to materials science from the vantage point of understanding how materials create and advance technology. He explains his longstanding affiliation with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and he recounts his childhood in Kanpur, northern India. Narayan describes his studies at IIT Kanpur in physics, math, and engineering, and he explains his decision to pursue a PhD at UC Berkeley in materials science under the direction of Jack Washburn. He discusses his thesis research on introducing defects in oxides using electron microscopy, and he describes his postdoctoral studies at Berkeley Lab before forming the Thin Film and Electron Microscopy Group at Oak Ridge. Narayan explains the discovery of laser annealing and rapid thermal processing of semiconductors and its many applications, and he describes his close collaboration with the Division of Materials Science at the DOE. He narrates the discovery of Q-carbon and he explains what it means to find a new material in nature and what the potential commercial applications are, including the creation of synthetic diamonds. Narayan explains his decision to join the faculty at NC State, and his partnership with the state government to develop the Microelectronics Center. He reflects on his contributions as an inventor, particularly relating to the formation of supersaturated semiconductor allows via ion implantation for semiconductor device fabrication. At the end of the interview, Narayan explains how physics drives his research sensibilities, why he is devoted to improving the resolution of electron microscopes, and why he is excited for the future of diamond and c-BN based high-power devices.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
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Video conference
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In this interview, Sheldon Glashow, Professor of Physics Emeritus at Harvard University and Professor of Physics Emeritus at Boston University, reflects on his career and Nobel Prize winning work. He discusses his childhood friendship with Steve Weinberg and his passion for science from a young age. He reflects on his decision to attend Cornell University for undergrad and details the physics curriculum at the time. Glashow describes his time as a graduate student at Harvard University studying under Julian Schwinger. He discusses his time as a post-doc at the Institute for Theoretical Physics in Copenhagen working on the SU(2)XU(1) theory, which would later win him a Nobel prize in 1979. He speaks about working with Murray Gell-Mann while at Caltech and their collaboration on a paper together. Glashow details being hired as a full professor at Harvard University. He discusses his frequent collaboration with Alvaro De Rujula. He discusses the concept of string theory and how it has evolved over the years. He discusses the loss of the superconducting super collider and reflects on where particle and theoretical physics may be today had it been built. Lastly, Glashow reflects on his goals for "Inference: International Review of Science", of which he is the editor-at-large.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
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Video conference
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In this interview, Glennys Farrar, professor at New York University, discusses her career and shifting interests within physics. She details her time as an undergraduate student at University of California, Berkeley. Farrar discusses how she chose to attend Princeton University for graduate school to further her interest in particle theory. She discusses her thesis research which calculated the rate of decay for The Lambda under the mentorship of her advisor Sam Treiman. She describes the social isolation she faced within the physics department as the only woman. Farrar discusses her time as a postdoc at Caltech and details her research on the pion decay constant, as well as pioneering the field of phenomenological supersymmetry. Additionally, she speaks on the sexism she experienced while at Caltech. She details her experience at Rutgers University where she worked on Hadron Physics. Farrar discusses her time at New York University as Chair of the Department of Physics and her efforts putting together a strong faculty. She also details her growing interest in cosmology at this time and describes founding the Center for Cosmology and Particle Physics. She also speaks about her work on the stellar tidal disruption phenomenon. Lastly, Farrar notes her excitement for the increase in computation power in the future and reflects on the merging of different fields of physics.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
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Video conference
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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
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Video conference
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In this interview, David Zierler interviews Deborah Harris, professor of physics at York University and Senior Scientist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Harris discusses her work as co-spokesperson for MINERvA, and she recounts her childhood and her father’s work as a physicist at Fermilab. She describes her undergraduate work at Cornell before she transferred to Berkeley. Harris discusses her graduate work at Chicago, where she contributed to the E799 experiment, and her thesis research on Kaon decay modes. She describes her postdoctoral research at the University of Rochester in neutrino physics, and her full time transition as a staff scientist at Fermilab to focus on neutrino oscillations. Harris discusses her subsequent work on MINERvA and MINOS and how the neutrino community has grown over the past fifteen years. She describes her contributions to the DUNE collaboration and its goal of taking neutrino measurements over a broad range of energy. At the end of the interview, Harris explains her decision to take a faculty appointment at York, and how neutrino research contributes to broader questions in physics.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
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Video conference
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In this interview, Bernard Sadoulet, Professor of the Graduate School at the University of California, Berkeley, discusses his time working in France as well as the study of dark matter. He discusses getting his Master’s degree in theoretical physics at the University of Paris in Orsay, and how this background was beneficial for his interest in experimental physics. Sadoulet speaks about his time working at CERN as part of the official committee managing the collaboration between Europe and the Soviet Union. He also details his work on the UA1 experiment while at CERN. He describes his role in the “Wise Men Committee,” and there task of producing a report about civil nuclear programs in France. Sadoulet discusses his time as a postdoc at Berkeley and his discovery of the Chi states. He speaks about his growing interest in dark matter in the 1980s and the interest he had in the possibility of building detectors to search for dark matter particles in the halo of our galaxy. He describes his collaborations with Blas Cabrera Navarro at the Center for Particle and Astrophysics. Lastly, he reflects upon how to meaningfully involve the public in science.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
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Video conference
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Interview with Renata Wentzcovitch, professor of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics and Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University. Wentzcovitch recounts her childhood in Brazil, and she describes how her grandfather sparked her interest in science early on. She describes her education at the University of São Paulo’s Institute of Physics where she developed an interest in density functional theory. Wentzcovitch discusses her interest in pursuing a graduate degree in the United States, and her decision to attend UC Berkeley and study under the direction of Marvin Cohen. She describes her thesis research on pseudopotential plane-wave codes and super-hard materials such as boron nitride and diamonds. Wentzcovitch explains the impact of High Tc Superconductivity on both her career and the field generally, and she describes her postdoctoral research with joint appointments at Brookhaven and Stony Brook on evolving electronic wavefunctions via classical dynamics. She discusses her subsequent work with Volker Henie at Cambridge to study silicate perovskite, which in turn led to her first faculty appointment at the University of Minnesota. Wentzcovitch describes the importance of Minnesota’s Supercomputing Institute for her research, and she explains how her research focused more centrally on geophysics and the thermo-elasticity of minerals and their aggregates. She describes the founding of the Virtual Laboratory for Earth and Planetary Materials and explains her decision to join the faculty at Columbia and her involvement with VLab and the study of exchange-correlation functionals to address electronic interactions. At the end of the interview, Wentzcovitch discusses her current work on developing codes for thermodynamic computations and seismic tomography, and she conveys the value of pursuing international collaborations to fit her broad and diverse research agenda.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
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Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Nai Phuan Ong, professor of physics at Princeton University. Ong describes how he has managed to keep his lab running during the coronavirus pandemic thanks to remote data analysis. He recounts his childhood in Malaysia in a family of ethnic Chinese who had businesses in Penang, and he describes his Catholic schooling and how he became interested in science as a young boy. Ong describes the opportunities leading to his undergraduate education at Columbia, where he pursued a degree in physics. He explains his decision to enroll at Berkeley for graduate school, where he studied under the direction of Alan Portis and worked on developing a microwave technique to perform measurements of the Hall effect without making Hall contacts to the sample. Ong recounts his offer from the University of Southern California to join the physics department first as a postdoctoral researcher and then as a member of the faculty. He explains his decision to move to Princeton and describes some of the difficulties given what he saw as a low point for condensed matter physics in the physics department at Princeton at that time. Ong describes the significance of the prediction and discovery of superfluid helium-3, and he discusses how Phil Anderson introduced him to high-Tc superconductivity. He discusses his research on representing the weak field Hall effect in a geometric fashion, he explains why the cuprate Hall effect remains mysterious, and he describes his more recent work on quantum spin liquids and the Nernst effect. Ong describes the excitement surrounding research in novel ground states of Dirac electrons in graphene, and what the achievement of topological quantum computers would mean for his research. At the end of the interview, Ong explains why graduate students are among the rarest and most precious resources in science, and why he hopes to concentrate on the Karplus-Luttinger theory in the future.