University of Minnesota

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Laurence Peterson, Professor Emeritus of Physics at UC San Diego and former director of the Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences. He describes his childhood in rural Wisconsin and his early interests in electricity. He describes his undergraduate education at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and how he got involved in cosmic ray balloon research. Peterson discusses his formative relationship with John Winckler, how he developed his graduate interests in auroral X-rays, and he explains his decision to join the faculty at UC San Diego. He explains his ongoing research in detecting cosmic X-rays, and the challenges he faced in creating the High-Energy astronomy group there. Peterson discusses his long-range collaboration and advisory work with NASA and what it was like to be involved in these efforts in the heyday of the Space Race. He discusses his work studying Gamma Ray lines and he surveys the achievements of the OSO-1, OSO-3, and OSO-7 endeavors. Peterson describes the work done by NASA’s High Energy Astronomical Observatories project, and at the end of the interview, he reflects on some of the most important things he has learned over the course of his career in X-ray astronomy, and how lucky he feels that his career began right at the dawn of the Space Age.

Interviewed by
Fredericka Bell-Berti
Interview dates
November 5 & 7, 2018
Location
Fairmont Empress Hotel, Victoria, BC
Abstract

Interview with Patricia Kuhl, Professor of Speech and Hearing Sciences and co-director of the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences (I-LABS) at the University of Washington. Kuhl describes joining the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) while a grad student at the University of Minnesota and discusses her over 50 years of membership. She served on the Executive Council of the ASA and was the first female President of the society in 1999 and 2000. Kuhl discusses her research in language acquisition and the neurobiology of language, and she explains the support and mentorship she has received over the years from the ASA and her mentors within. Kuhl also recounts her childhood in South Dakota and Minnesota, and her early interests in philosophy and math. She describes her time as an undergraduate at Saint Cloud University where she studied speech science and psychology, before pursuing a master’s and PhD at the University of Minnesota. Kuhl also speaks about her experiences as a postdoctoral researcher at the Central Institute for the Deaf. She shares fond memories of her time in the ASA and describes the society as being like a family. 

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

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
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Stanley Brodsky, Professor Emeritus at SLAC. Brodsky surveys his current projects after his retirement last year following 54 years of service to SLAC; they include new initiatives on hadron physics and his interest in the muon G-2 experiment at Fermilab. He recounts his upbringing in St. Paul, his early interests in electrical engineering, and his decision to stay close to home and attend the University of Minnesota for his undergraduate education. He explains his decision to remain at Minnesota for his thesis research, where he worked under the supervision of Donald Yennie on computing atomic levels from first principles in quantum electrodynamics. Brodsky describes his postdoctoral appointment at Columbia, where he worked with Sam Ting at DESY computing the QED radiative corrections for Bethe-Heitler pair production. He recalls his original contact with Sid Drell and his decision to come to SLAC to join the theory group in support of the many experimental programs in train, and he recounts the November Revolution and Sam Ting’s visits to SLAC. Brodsky describes some of the key differences in East Coast and West Coast physics in the 1970s, and he discusses his collaboration with Peter Lepage at the beginning of QCD’s development. He highlights the importance of thinking beyond conventional wisdom and he references his work on intrinsic heavy quarks to illustrate the point. Brodksy discusses his research on the Higgs VEV and the long range value of the Brodsky-Lepage-Mackenzie procedure, and he reflects on the many surprises in QCD color confinement that he has encountered. He explains the value of supersymmetry in his research and he considers why it has not been seen yet and why Maldacena’s work on AdS/CFT has been revolutionary. Brodsky describes SLAC’s increasing involvement in astrophysics and how he has managed his research agenda by working on many different projects at the same time. At the end of the interview, Brodsky emphasizes the significance of Bjorken scaling, he historicizes the first work in physics that explored beyond the Standard Model, and he reflects on the importance that luck has played in his career, simply by finding himself, at so many junctures, in being at the right place at the right time.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

This is an interview with Roger Stuewer, Professor Emeritus, History of Science and Technology, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Stuewer recounts his childhood in rural Wisconsin, and he discusses his undergraduate work in physics education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the formative course in optics taught by Ed Miller. He describes his service in the U.S. Army and his deployment to Germany in the mid-1950s, and the opportunities provided by the GI Bill to further his education. He discusses his brief career teaching high school math and physics before he was offered an instructor job in physics at Heidelberg College. Stuewer describes the circumstances leading to his return to Wisconsin to pursue a graduate degree in the history of science, where he was advised by Erwin Hiebert and where he was deeply influenced by Heinz Barschall. He describes his fascination with Arthur Holly Compton and the Compton Effect which was the subject of his dissertation, and he explains his decision to join the faculty at Minnesota. Stuewer recounts his efforts to build the history of science and technology program there, and the opportunities he was afforded with a joint appointment in the physics department. He describes some of the major methodological and historiographical debates in the field over the course of his career, including competing ideas of whether the history of physics should be pursued at the conceptual level or have as its focus social phenomena. Stuewer discusses the major impact of Thomas Kuhn and he explains his decision to take a faculty position at Boston University before returning to Minnesota for the rest of his career, where he subsequently focused on the history of nuclear physics. He describes his motivations for creating a symposium on this topic, where Han Bethe delivered introductory remarks, and he explains his longstanding interest in John Hasbrouck Van Vleck. Stuewer describes his advisory work for AIP’s history program, and how his work as an editor for the American Journal of Physics provided him a unique vantage point of the field. At the end of the interview, Stuewer reflects on what his scholarship has taught him about how humankind makes sense of the physical world.  

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Thomas H. Epps, III, the Thomas and Kipp Gutshall Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Delaware. Epps describes his involvement and leadership in several research ventures in materials at Delaware and some of the challenges regarding lab work during the coronavirus pandemic. He recounts his childhood in Virginia and the influence of his parents, both of whom were university professors, and he discusses his early interests in math and sciences in high school which culminated in a formative project at NASA Langley. Epps describes his undergraduate research at MIT where he pursued a degree in chemical engineering and where he solidified his multidisciplinary approach to the field. He explains his decision to attend the University of Minnesota for graduate school, where he worked under the direction of Frank Bates on polymers and nanostructure membranes. Epps describes his choice not to enter industry after graduate school, and he explains his decision to conduct postdoctoral work with Mike Fasolka on polymer-thin films at NIST. He explains the circumstances leading to him joining the faculty at Delaware, and he describes his excitement at the prospect of serving on and creating many research endeavors across the university. Epps discusses his broad interests in biotechnology and fuel cells, and he describes Delaware’s leadership role in its partnership with the Department of Energy in pursuing sustainable energy sources. He describes what chemical engineers can contribute to Covid-19 research, and he reflects on the ways STEM has, and has not, become more inclusive and diverse over the course of his career. At the end of the interview, Epps describes the ranges of research endeavors in the material sciences that excite him most as he looks to the future.

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
Roger H. Stuewer
Interview date
Location
University of Minnesota
Abstract

Family background, early schooling; undergraduate studies at Case Institute of Technology (B.S. 1917); assistant physicist at National Bureau of Standards (1917-19); research on piezoelectricity of sodium chlorate and bromate; World War I work in pyrometry and optical glass manufacture; graduate studies at University of Minnesota (MA. 1920, teaching assistant 1919-20, Ph.D. 1921, instructor of physics, 1920-21), member of physics faculty; research on ferroelectricity of Rochelle Salt Crystals and location of Curie Points; X-ray spectroscopy research at University of Upsala, Sweden 1928-29; comments on nuclear physics at University of Minnesota.

Interviewed by
Ronald Doel
Interview date
Location
Santa Barbara, California
Abstract

Born in California in 1911; recollections of childhood. Undergraduate studies in geology at California Institute of Technology, then one year of graduate work (J. P. Buwald, Chester Stock, William Morris Davis). Graduate studies in geology at Harvard University (R. A. Daly, Kirk Bryan, Percy Bridgman, Francis Birch, David Griggs), 1935-1938; comparisons between Harvard University and Caltech. To University of Illinois for teaching position, 1938-1943; summer research in geomorphology and glaciology. Research in Army Air Force during World War II. Accepts position at University of Minnesota (Larry Gould); professorship at Caltech, 1947. Debates over geochemical and geophysical approaches to geology; reassessment of curriculum in Division of Geological Sciences; decision to encourage research in space and planetary sciences (Harrison Brown), late 1950s.

Interviewed by
Albert Bartlett and Joan Warnow
Interview date
Location
Boulder, Colorado
Abstract

This interview begins with a lengthy discussion of his family history, and more personal anecdotes emerge throughout the interview.  After the family history, Broxon discusses his undergraduate education at Wabash College.  There is a brief discussion of Broxon's Law, concerning the flow of electricity inside the sun and around sunspots.  Broxon then goes on to discuss his scientific training at the University of Minnesota, his early experiences at Yale, and the construction of early ionization chambers.  The subject then changes to a brief account of his time associated with the Manhattan Project, both in Chicago and Los Alamos.  The interview concludes with a few personal reminiscences, prompted by photographs in Broxon's personal albums.  Other affiliations discussed include Dr. W.F.G. Swann and Oliver C. Lester.