University of Southern California

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
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.

Interviewed by
Greg Good
Interview date
Location
Convention Center, Baltimore, Maryland
Abstract

Edward Gerjuoy ws born in Brooklyn, New York, on May 19, 1918, of a Romanian immigrant mother and Russian immigrant father. He attended Thomas Jefferson High School, along with other classmates who became well-known physicists. He studied at City College of New York. He was minimally involved in the Young Communist League. He completed the Ph.D. in physics under J. Robert Oppenheimer at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1942. Gerjuoy discusses his teachers, professors, and fellow students. He describes the classroom atmosphere, the personalities, and the courses. Gerjuoy, who learned no calculus in high school, became a theoretical physicist, specializing in quantum mechanics. During World War II, Gerjuoy worked as a civilian scientist on anti-submarine warfare, ultimately leaving a Sonar Analysis Group under Lyman Spitzer. After the war, he taught at the University of Southern California, New York University, and the University of Pittsburgh. He also worked at Westinghouse Research Laboratory, General Atomic Laboratory, and directed a plasma research group at RCA Laboratories in New Jersey. At age 56, Gerjuoy decided to take a sabbatical and started a degree in law. While on leave from the University of Pittsburgh, he served as one of three judges on the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board. He nevertheless remained active in the American Physical Society, especially on the Committee on the International Freedom of Scientists (CIFS) and the Panel on Public Affairs (POPA). He played a role in the Wen Ho Lee case regardin gnational security matters at Los Alamos. He was editor-in-chief of Jurimetrics Journal of Law, Science, and Technology for six years. His interest in recent years relates to quantum computing.

Interviewed by
Joan Lisa Bromberg
Interview date
Location
University of Southern California
Abstract

Research on nonlinear optics at the University of Michigan, 1961 to 1964, laser education at Berkeley, 1964-1966; color centers, laser damages, and dye lasers at Raytheon, 1966-1973, and medical applications at University of Southern California, after 1973. Experimental laser techniques and their evolution and the institutional context of research at each of these sites. Also prominently mentioned are: John A. Armstrong, Nicolaas Bloembergen, Colin Bowness, William B. Bridges, Tom Deutsch, Richard Dwyer, Peter Alden Franken, Joseph Anthony Giordmaine, Alan Hill, James Hobart, Frank Horrigan, Steve Jarrett, Kleinman, Clarence Luck, Theodore Maiman, Sam McCall, Steve Miller, Roy Paananeu, Al Paiadino, C. Wilbur Peters, Al Poladine, Sergio Porto, Lance Riley, Mike Saiden, Fritz Schafer, Mike Seiden, Peter P. Sorokin, Herman Statz, Carlisle Martin Stickley, Gaby Weinreich; Bell Telephone Laboratories, Conference on Laser and Electro-optical Systems, Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics, Eastman Kodak Co., Exxon Corporation, Hughes Aircraft Company, Metrologic Co., Raytheon Corporation, Spectra-Physics Company, Trion Instruments Company, and University of California at San Diego.