University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
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Video conference
Abstract

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
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Gordon Kane, Victor Weisskopf Distinguished Professor of Physics at the University of Michigan. He explains why came to hold a chair in Weisskopf’s honor and he describes his affiliation with the Leinweber Center for Theoretical Physics. Kane recounts his childhood in Minnesota and the opportunities that led to his enrollment in physics at MIT and his graduate work at Illinois to work with J.D. Jackson. He explains that the major topic in particle theory during his graduate work was understanding nucleon scattering and the significance of Geoff Chew’s bootstrap mechanism. Kane talks about his contribution to the discovery of the omega minus at Brookhaven and his research at the Rutherford Lab. He explains his decision to join the faculty at Michigan and his interest in group theory because of the advances made by Murray Gell-Mann. Kane describes the early work in the search for physics beyond the Standard Model, and he explains the value of string theory at the Planck scale. He discusses the possible new physics that would have been discovered at the SSC and why compactified M theory offers a plausible path to moving beyond the Standard Model. Kane explains why string theory is testable and why string theory predicts axions, he offers some possible candidates for dark matter and what compactified M theory offers cosmic inflation. At the end of the interview, Kane discusses his current interests in quark masses and charge leptons, he explains some of the advantages inherent in teaching at a large public university, and he describes why communicating science to popular audiences has always been important to him.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with William Herrmannsfeldt, Staff Physicist at SLAC. Herrmannsfeldt recounts his German heritage, his upbringing in Ohio, and his early interests in physics which he pursued as an undergraduate at Miami University. He discusses his graduate work on beta decay and nuclear physics at the University of Illinois, under the direction of James Allen, and he describes his postdoctoral appointment at Los Alamos where he made detectors for bomb tests. Herrmannsfeldt explains the connection between his work at Los Alamos on electron optics and his initial research at SLAC, and he describes his work on linear accelerators. He describes his tenure as Secretary of the Advanced Development Group and his role at the AEC to concentrate on accelerator physics for Fermilab. Herrmannsfeldt explains the decision to move ahead with the PEP project and his LINAC work at Berkeley. Herrmannsfeldt explains the relevance of this research to nuclear fusion, and he describes some of the technical challenges in building the superconducting RF system. At the end of the interview, Herrmannsfeldt conveys the sense of fun he felt in learning new technological systems, the inherent challenges of beam dynamics, and he reflects on how SLAC has changed since its inception. 

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Philip Phillips, Professor of Physics at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Phillips recounts his early childhood in Tobago and the circumstances of his family’s move to Washington State. He conveys his bemusement at having no degree in physics, as his graduate work at the University of Washington was in chemistry, where he completed a PhD on fluorescence lifetimes in single molecules under the direction of Ernest Davidson, and where David Boulware provided the intellectual entrée to physics. Phillips explains the opportunities that allowed him to pursue postdoctoral work at Berkeley and learning RG from Orlando Alvarez. He describes his first faculty position in the chemistry department at MIT, some of the research challenges given that his primary interests were in physics, and his feeling that MIT was at the time not a very inclusive atmosphere. Phillips discusses his work on the random dimer model and the happenstance opportunity that led to his faculty appointment at Illinois. He explains getting involved with the National Society of Black Physicists and his efforts to make the department more diverse. Phillips describes the research that was recognized by the Edward Bouchet award and why Tony Leggett is among the few physicists who truly understands Mottness. He discusses advances in strongly coupled electron systems and he explains why he dislikes the term condensed matter and prefers solid-state. Phillips reflects on STEM’s response to the racial strife over the past year, and he discusses his current interests in pseudogaps. At the end of the interview, Phillips conveys his dream to solve the Hubbard model and to make advances in high-Tc research.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Stuart Shapiro, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Shapiro discusses the relationship between physics and astronomy at Illinois and the shifting boundaries between cosmology, astrophysics, and astronomy. He recounts his childhood in Connecticut and his fascination with the space race. Shapiro describes his undergraduate experience at Harvard in the late 1960s and the import of the discovery of the cosmic wave background. He explains his interest in general relativity as the motivating factor for his choice of Princeton for graduate work, where he worked under the direction of Jim Peebles on gas accretion onto black holes. Shapiro describes his postdoctoral appointment at Cornell and the formative collaboration he developed with Saul Teukolsky. He describes the computational advances that propelled the field of numerical relativity and how his interactions with Kip Thorne provided an early entrée to the LIGO endeavor. Shapiro explains how he and Teukolsky challenged the cosmic censorship hypothesis and how Penrose responded to this challenge. He explains his decision to join the faculty at Illinois where he continued to work on neutrino astrophysics and the prospects for observation of hypermassive neutron stars. Shapiro explains his motivations in writing "Numerical Relativity" and he compares his reactions to the detection of gravitational waves with LIGO and the imaging of a black hole with the Event Horizon Telescope. At the end of the interview, Shapiro surveys his current interests in the dynamical problems associated with dark matter. He also conveys his deep love of sports and some unlikely coincidences he has experienced in his many years of being a fan.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, Enrico Gratton, professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of California at Irvine, recounts his early childhood in Italy and what it was like to grow up as the son of a prominent astrophysicist. He describes his family’s move to Argentina, and his education at the University of Rome, where he completed a physics graduate thesis on the status of the DNA molecule, condensation, and chromosomes during a time of student uprisings and turmoil in the late 1960s. Gratton discusses his postgraduate work in the Italian oil industry before attaining a postdoctoral and then faculty position in biochemistry at the University of Illinois. He describes his interests in photochemistry and uranium-238 and the circumstances leading to his creation of the Laboratory for Fluorescence Dynamics, and his interest in bringing microscopy to the forefront of physics. He describes the origins of the NIH’s long-term support of the Lab and his formative collaboration with William Mantulin on protein dynamics. Gratton discusses the many clinical and therapeutic aspects of his research, and he explains his decision to move the Lab en masse to Irvine. He describes the many patents he has achieved to advance human health, and he discusses his motivation to start Globals Software and how the Lab has continued to grow and improve over the years given UCI’s strengths in the biological sciences. At the end of the interview, Gratton describes some of the major advances that have occurred in DNA research over the course of his career, and some of the ongoing mysteries surrounding biological aging and sickness.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Louis J. Lanzerotti, Distinguished Research Professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Center for Solar Terrestrial Research in the Department of Physics. Lanzerotti describes the origins of the Center, and he recounts his Italian heritage and his upbringing in southern Illinois. Lanzerotti discusses his undergraduate experience at the University of Illinois and his initial interest in civil engineering. He explains why he transitioned to physics, the formative influence of Charlie Slichter and the opportunities that led to his graduate admission to Harvard, where he developed fiber optics research under the direction of Frank Pipkin. He explains his decision to accept a postdoctoral offer at Bell Labs, and he explains how Bell Labs became involved in space research. Lanzerotti discusses his initial work on the Applications Technology Satellite 1 and the earliest incarnations of space weather as a discrete field. He describes his work on communications and geophysical collaboration and his involvement it the beginning of the Voyager, Ulysses, and then the Cassini missions. Lanzerotti describes the breakup of Bell Labs and the considerations that led to him joining the faculty at NJIT. He explains his ongoing research focus analyzing data from the Ulysses mission at the Van Allen probes, and he describes his service on the National Science Board. Lanzerotti describes his long association with the AGU, and his work on Director of the Board for AIP. At the end of the interview, Lanzerotti reflects on the opportunities in his career that intersected with the zenith of American scientific power and influence, and he prognosticates on both future prospects for foundational discovery and the societal commitments required to achieve them.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Remote Interview
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Dan Neumann, Group Leader for Neutron Condensed Matter Science at the NIST Center for Neutron Research. Neumann recounts his childhood growing up on a farm in Nebraska and later on in Arizona. He discusses his undergraduate experience at Arizona State and his developing interest in condensed matter physics. Neumann describes his graduate work at the University of Illinois, and he describes his lab work, his AT&T fellowship and research at Bell Labs, and his dissertation work under the direction of Hartmut Zabel. He explains the circumstances leading to his appointment at NIST, and he describes the value of neutron scattering as a means of understanding materials at atomic, nanoscale levels. Neumann describes how neutron scattering fits within the overall mission of NIST, and he explains NIST's support for basic science and why its laboratories have attracted a wide array of researchers. He explains how neutron scattering is the key to developing new materials for both research and commercial applications. Neumann describes some of the key interagency partnership that have advanced neutron scattering research, and he explains some recent projects he has been involved in, including hydrogen fuel cell research, dynamic work on proteins, and pharmaceutical work. At the end of the interview, Neumann describes how closely his work at NIST has been integrated within the broader physics community.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Douglas Brash, Professor in the Department of Therapeutic Radiology in the Yale School of Medicine. Brash recounts his childhood in a rural community outside of Cleveland, and then in Chicago, and he describes his early interests in science and his determination to become a physicist by the third grade. He discusses his education at Illinois where he majored in engineering physics, and he describes his formative summer job at Livermore Laboratory which helped to compel him to pursue biophysics for graduate school. Brash discusses his research at Ohio State under the supervision of Karl Kornacker, and the work of his graduate adviser, Ron Hart who was focused on DNA repair. Brash discusses his interests in aging and molecular biology which was the foundation for his dissertation, and he provides an overview of biophysics as a discrete field in the 1970s. He discusses the distinctions in his research regarding basic science and clinically relevant therapies as it relates to understanding cancer, and he describes the varying interests in environmental carcinogenesis and retroviruses as a basis for cancer research. Brash explains the origins of the discovery of oncogenes and the connection leading to his specialty in skin cancer research. He describes his postdoctoral research at Harvard and the Dana Farber Institute with Bill Haseltine working on DNA damage and mutagenesis. Brash discusses his subsequent work at the NIH where he continued his research in cell mutation and where he began to study the effect of UV rays on skin cancer. He explains the circumstances leading to his decision to join the faculty at Yale, where he realized he had greater opportunity to continue examining UV rays and skin cancer. Brash offers an overview of the major advances over the last two decades in skin cancer research, and he describes the central importance in DNA sequencing and Chemiecxitation. He discusses the many research advantages associated with having an appointment in a medical school, and at the of the interview, Brash describes the value of bringing a physics approach to cancer research, and some of the policy and communication implications that come with working at the cutting edge of the field. 

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Walter Massey, chairman of the board of the Giant Magellan Telescope organization. Massey describes his childhood in segregated Mississippi and his academic achievements that led to his admission to Morehouse College from the 10th grade. He describes his developing interest in physics during a formative summer program at Columbia, which convinced him that he could compete at high levels. Massey describes his graduate work at Washington University and how he came to be a student of Eugene Feenberg, who was working on correlated basis functions to many-body physics problems. He discusses his postdoctoral work at Argonne Laboratory and his interest in becoming involved in civil rights issues in the late 1960s, when he became a professor at the University of Illinois. Massey describes his subsequent tenure at Brown, where he focused on mixtures of helium-3 and helium 4 and on the problem of sound dispersion. He discusses the impact of an ACE fellowship which led to his work in the chancellor’s office at UC Santa Cruz, which in turn changed the course of his career trajectory toward policy. Massey describes his tenure at the University of Chicago, his directorship at Argonne, and how he worked through the existential challenge of nuclear energy following the Three Mile Island disaster. He explains his decision to accept an offer to head the National Science Foundation and how he grappled with creating a national science policy in a post-Cold War world. He discusses his work in support of the LIGO project and he explains his decision to lead Morehouse College after a brief appointment with the University of California. Massey reflects on his accomplishment at Morehouse, and he describes the ways the college had changed since his time there as a student. At the end of the interview, Massey discusses his work on the board of Bank of America and for the School of Art Institute of Chicago, and he discusses some of the ongoing challenges and areas of improvement to pursue in promoting diversity in the sciences.