Division of Planetary Science Meeting, Washington, D.C.
Interview with Paul Sanchez, senior research associate at the Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research at University of Colorado, Boulder. Sanchez recounts his childhood in Ecuador, where be discovered an early interest in math and attended a military academy for high school. He describes attending the National Polytechnic School in Ecuador and choosing to focus on physics. Sanchez then discusses his decision to pursue a PhD at the University of Nottingham, originally to work on superconductivity but shifted focus to materials sciences and granular matter. Sanchez talks about wanting to return to Ecuador after completing his PhD, but describes the difficulties in finding a job in his home country due to the relative lack of a robust scientific tradition. He recounts his decision to accept a postdoctoral position at University of Rennes 1 in France, where he worked on super stable heaps. Sanchez then describes the events leading him to the University of Colorado. He ends the interview by emphasizing the importance of being willing to learn and adapt as you navigate a career in the sciences.
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.
Interview with Neal Lane, University Professor Emeritus and Professor Emeritus of Physics and Astronomy at Rice University, with an additional affiliation at the Baker Institute for Public Policy. Lane recounts his childhood in Oklahoma and his education at the University of Oklahoma, where Chun Lin became his thesis advisor for his research on the excitation of a sodium atom from its ground state. He discusses his postdoctoral appointment at Queen’s University of Belfast to work with Alex Dalgarno before taking a position at JILA in Boulder. Lane describes his work with Sydney Geltman and the opportunity to take a faculty position at Rice, and he discusses his role as NSF physics division director. He narrates his decision to become chancellor at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, before returning to Rice to serve as provost. Lane describes how the Clinton administration invited him to lead the NSF. He explains the importance of direct communication with OMB, his relationship with Al Gore, and the key guidance offered by National Academy reports. Lane describes the LIGO effort from his vantage point at the NSF, and he explains his time as director of OSTP and Assistant to the President for Science and Technology. Lane discusses his work for PCAST and in the creation of the NNSA, and he describes returning to Rice after Gore lost the presidency, where the Baker Institute allowed him an environment to continue working in science and policy. At the end of the interview, Lane emphasizes the power of human connections as the foundation of all good science and policy endeavors.
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.
In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Steven Block, W. Ascherman Professor of Sciences, Stanford University. Block describes his German-Jewish heritage on his mother’s side, and his father’s Eastern European Jewish heritage. He describes growing up the son of a physicist and the importance of skiing and music in his family and spending his early childhood in Italy while his father was a visiting scholar. Block describes the rest of his childhood in North Carolina, and then Illinois, where his father worked for Duke and Northwestern, respectively. He explains his unique interests in Chinese and oceanography and why this led him to the University of Washington in Seattle, and he describes his subsequent pursuit of physics and ultimately biophysics at Oxford University. Block discusses the formative relationship he built with Max Delbruck at Cold Spring Harbor Labs where he worked on phycomyces, and he explains his decision to go to Caltech for graduate school to work with Howard Berg. He describes his postgraduate interests in sensory transduction in e. coli as a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford, and he provides a history on the discovery of kinesin and why this was key for his research. Block explains his decision to join the Rowland Institute and he discusses its unique history and the freedom it allowed its researchers, and he describes the opportunity that allowed him to secure tenure at Princeton. He describes some of the difficulties in convincing his colleagues to consider biophysics as “real” physics and the considerations that led to him joining the faculty at Stanford. Block describes the difficulties he has experienced when his laboratory site was displaced, and how, in dark way, he was prepared for the pandemic lockdown before most of his colleagues. At the end of the interview, Block reflects on his contributions, he explains the central importance of statistical mechanics to biophysics, he explains how he has tried to emulate his mentors in the care and interest he has shown his own students, and he prognosticates on the future of single molecule biophysics.
Interview with Christopher Monroe, Gilhuly Family Distinguished Presidential Professor of Physics and Electrical Computer Engineering at Duke University. Monroe discusses his ongoing affiliation with the University of Maryland, and his position as chief scientist and co-founder of IonQ. He discusses the competition to achieve true quantum computing, and what it will look like without yet knowing what the applications will be. Monroe discusses his childhood in suburban Detroit and his decision to go to MIT for college, where he focused on systems engineering and electronic circuits. He explains his decision to pursue atomic physics at the University of Colorado to work under the direction of Carl Wieman on collecting cold atoms from a vapor cell, which he describes as a “zig zag” path to Bose condensation. Monroe discusses his postdoctoral research at NIST where he learned ion trap techniques from Dave Wineland and where he worked with Eric Cornell. He explains how he became interested in quantum computing from this research and why quantum computing’s gestation period is stretching into its third decade. Monroe explains his decision to join the faculty at the University of Michigan, where he focused on pulsed lasers for quantum control of atoms. He describes his interest to transfer to UMD partly to be closer to federal entities that were supporting quantum research and to become involved in the Joint Quantum Institute. Monroe explains the value of quantum computing to encryption and intelligence work, he describes the “architecture” of quantum computing, and he narrates the origins of IonQ and the nature of venture capitalism. He discusses China’s role in advancing quantum computing, and he describes preparations for IonQ to go public in the summer of 2021. At the end of the interview, Monroe discusses the focus of the Duke Quantum Center, and he asserts that no matter how impressive quantum computing can become, computer simulation can never replace observation of the natural world.
Interview with Ana Maria Rey, Professor Adjoint at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and a fellow at NIST and JILA. Rey describes the nature of this tri-appointment, and she discusses some of the difficulties in keeping up her research during the pandemic. She recounts her childhood in Colombia and her early education in an all-girls school and her undergraduate education at the University of Los Andes in physics and the opportunities leading to her acceptance to the University of Maryland for graduate school. Rey describes joining Charles Clark’s group that was focused on modeling ultra-cold atoms, and she explains her initial work at NIST. She explains her decision to take an initial postdoctoral position at NIST before joining ITAMP at Harvard, where she focused on developing improved models to study the behavior of atoms trapped in crystals of light. Rey describes the opportunities that led to her appointments in Colorado, and her subsequent interests in metrology, the quantum advantage, and trapping molecules. She explains how it felt to be named a MacArthur Fellow and why it is important for her to interact with experimentalists in the quest to build better atomic clocks. Rey explains her efforts to create dark matter detectors and how she hopes that her work on quantum matter will help bring about quantum computers. She provides her perspective on how to advance diversity and inclusivity in the field, and she delineates her research interests as they pertain to basic science and applications. At the end of the interview, Rey conveys optimism that her research will make advances to the broader understanding of the quantum world.
In this interview, Jon Phillips, Assistant Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Peter Gilman, Senior Scientist Emeritus in the High Altitude Observatory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Gilman recounts his early interest and education in meteorology and introduction to solar physics as an undergraduate, and his graduate research on solar dynamics with Victor Starr at MIT. He describes his early work at the University of Colorado and his move to, and rapid ascent at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Gilman discusses his leadership role as Director of NCAR’s Advanced Study Program, and his own ongoing research in magnetohydrodynamics and helioseismology, followed by an overview of the history of NCAR, the High Altitude Observatory, and the relocation of the National Solar Observatory to Boulder. Gilman goes on to discuss the state of solar dynamo theory and solar-cycle activity predictions, in particular the predictions for solar cycles 24 and 25. The last portion of the interview focuses on the many “firsts” Gilman contributed to the field, particularly in magnetohydrodynamic modeling of the sun.
In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Carson Chow, Senior Investigator in the Laboratory of Biological Modeling in NIDDK, which is the National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. Chow recounts his family background and childhood in Toronto, his undergraduate education at the University of Toronto and his graduate work at MIT, where he completed his doctoral research in Spatiotemporal Chaos in the Three Wave Interaction. Chow discusses his broader interests in nonlinear dynamics and describes his postdoctoral work at the University of Colorado where he worked with John Cary on particle accelerator physics, and the events leading up to his work with Jim Collins of Boston University, who hired Chow to integrate nonlinear dynamics work into biomedical engineering. Chow explains how this work ultimately led to his decision to join the NIH, where he works on biological modeling and supercomputing in collaborative projects throughout the Institutes.
Jo Ann Joselyn discusses topics including her childhood in Colorado; influence of Sputnik, education at Colorado University in astrogeophysics; Julius London; John Firor; first job position at Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA); Tom Holzer; organizing SEIIM conferences; counting sunspots; women in science; International Association of Geomagnetism and Aeronomy (IAGA); election and work as secretary general of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUSS); solar cycle project; setting up space weather forecasting centers in other countries.