University of Washington

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Berndt Müller, James B. Duke Professor of Physics at Duke University. The interview begins with Müller discussing his current work on quark-gluon plasma physics and the connections between nuclear physics and cosmology. Müller then recounts his family history in Germany during and after WWII, as well as his childhood in West Germany. He recalls his undergraduate studies at Goethe University Frankfurt, where it was the inspiring lectures that catalyzed his enthusiasm for physics. Müller explains the heavy ion research he was involved in at the time, as well as his master’s thesis on the Dirac equation. He recounts his first visit to Berkeley Lab in 1972 and his subsequent acceptance of a postdoc at University of Washington and a fellowship at Yale. Müller then returned to Frankfurt as an associate professor and explains how he got involved in quark-gluon plasma research. Müller talks about the creation of the RHIC and how that led him to pursue his next job in the US, landing at Duke. He discusses his involvement with the Institute of Nuclear Theory at the University of Washington, as well as his work at Brookhaven over the years. Müller recalls the pros and cons of the administrative side of academia, which he experienced as the Chair of the Faculty of Physics and then Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences at Duke. The interview concludes with Müller’s reflections on winning the Feshbach Prize and his predictions for the future of theoretical nuclear physics.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Location
Video conference
Abstract

The interviewee has not given permission for this interview to be shared at this time. Transcripts will be updated as they become available to the public. For any questions about this policy, please contact .

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Location
Video conference
Abstract

The interviewee has not given permission for this interview to be shared at this time. Transcripts will be updated as they become available to the public. For any questions about this policy, please contact .

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview dates
June 29, July 5, July 19, July 26, August 2, August 9, August 16, 2020
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Series of seven interview sessions with Carver Mead, Gordon and Betty Moore Professor Emeritus at Caltech. Mead recounts his childhood in California, and he describes the impact of watching his father’s career in the electric power industry. He credits his schoolteachers for encouraging his early interests in math and science, and he explains why attending Caltech as an undergraduate was an easy choice for him because he felt immediately welcomed during his first visit. He describes what it was like to learn quantum mechanics from Linus Pauling, and he explains that his decision to major in electrical engineering stemmed from the fact that applied physics was shunned in the physics department because Murray Gell-Mann referred to it as “squalid state physics.” Mead describes his decision to stay at Caltech for graduate school, and he explains how he became interested in semiconductors and transistors and what would become the origins of “device physics” and how his dissertation research contributed to these developments. He describes his developing understanding that the future of electronics would be in low power, high-performance devices and why he would be best positioned to foster this future as a faculty member at Caltech. Mead describes his collaborations and interest in industry labs including IBM, RCA, and Bell, and he describes his initial and then longtime work with Gordon Moore. He discusses the value of RF transmitters in 1960s-era communications technology and the prospects of satellite telecommunications at the dawn of the space age. Mead describes the origins of VSLI technology, word processors, and microcomputers, and he describes his collaboration with Lynn Conway and the process that went into the classic textbook they coauthored. He describes his research using the human mind as a source of inspiration to push electronics and microprocessors to the next level, and he explains the value of bouncing ideas off of Feynman over lunch. Mead describes the singular potential of his student and collaborator Misha Mahowald, and the value of his work with Arnold Beckman. He discusses the several companies that were spun out of his research in electronics and biophysics, and he describes his work on cameras with Michihiro Yamaki and the learning curve associated with research culture in Japan. Mead offers his perspective on the need to update the debates between Einstein and Bohr in the wake of recent developments in physics, and he explains the intellectual origins of his text Collective Electrodynamics. He explains why scientific debates can take on philosophical or even religious dynamics, and he discusses the origins of G4V and how to think of gravitational attraction as an analogy to electromagnetic interaction. Relatedly, Mead describes his work with Kip Thorne and his involvement with the LIGO endeavor, and he explains why the line between science and engineering is fuzzier than is commonly understood. He explains the significance of the Shapiro Delay, he surmises that the mystery of Dark Energy is sourced in the fact that physics is approaching the problem in the wrong way, and he explains why physics has become hamstrung in its pursuit of mathematizing physical reality ahead of experimental guidance. Mead explains that his views are rooted in his ability to think in pictures, as opposed to abstract symbols, and that the field needs to be more welcoming and inclusive to those who may see math as a barrier to working in physics at a high level. At the end of the interview, Mead describes his interest in current challenges with electric grid infrastructure, he explains why he has championed the work of women in science throughout his career, and he strikes an optimistic note that science always has and will continue, to provide solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Nygren discusses: the problem of the university and specialization in addressing global challenges; reaction to the muon anomaly in the g-2 experiment at Fermilab; work on particle physics with at University of Washington; experimentation at Berkeley lab; post-doc at Columbia with Jack Steinberger working to measure the semileptonic charge asymmetry in neutral kaon decays to find evidence of CP symmetry violation; building an MWPC-based detector; experimental work with Owen Chamberlain and the Bevatron, developing the Bevalac; invention and design of the Time Projection Chamber (TPC) at Berkeley; early models of the TPC and concerns during development; Pief Panofsky; PEP-4 TPC success; involvement with doomed supercolliding super conductor (SSC) project; development of pixel-based vertex detector/smart pixel arrays; making deep-depletion charge coupled devices (CCDs) with Steve Holland; Carl Rubbia; x-ray mammography research with leading to the Philips MicroDose System; contributions to the NESTOR Project neutrino muon detector; involvement with IceCube and gathering digital data; discussion of the AMANDA array; using gas time projection chamber to look for neutrinoless double beta decacy (NLDBD); collaboration with Juan José Gómez Cardenas; using biochemistry to make connections for NLDBD discoveries; the question of whether the neutrino is its own antiparticle; development of Single Molecue Fluorescence Imaging (SMFI); Q-Pix idea; progress building Q-Pix detectors; work at UTA using the Earth-Human System as a way to reorient the university toward the big picture of climate change. Toward the end of the interview, Nygren reflects on his own “eureka moments,” the “failures” that led to deeper learning, his mixed feelings about the future of the planet, and the belief that physics can be a training ground for the new ideas humanity will need. 

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, Fred Goldberg discusses: impact of COVID-19 pandemic on physics education and teaching tools; Jewish heritage, religious, and cultural practices; undergraduate and graduate experience with Bill Williams at University of Michigan; time at West Virginia University; work with Charles Wales; sabbatical with Lillian McDermott at the University of Washington and the beginnings of physics education research (PER); first PER gathering at an American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) meeting; first successful NSF PER proposal; move to San Diego State University to be at the Center for Research on Math and Science Education (CRMSE); Arnold Arons and Alfred Bork’s computer software programs; experiences on the cutting edge of using computers to enhance physics learning; shift from focusing on individual learning to how student groups learn; NSF’s ongoing support for his work; the Constructing Physics Understanding (CPU) project; Physics and Everyday Thinking curriculum development; Next Generation Science Standards curriculum alignment; development of a faculty online learning community (FOLC) and the shift toward studying faculty change and support; role of AAPT; decline of general population’s ability to engage in evidence-based reasoning; and how his work helps teachers develop an informed citizenry. Toward the end of the interview, Goldberg reflects on the difficulties of trying to change the way faculty thinks about teaching and how his own ideas and interests have evolved over the years. He emphasizes the importance of issues of equity and inclusion in science education going forward.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with David Sokoloff, Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Oregon. Sokoloff discusses his focus on improving physics education at the collegiate level, and the programs and methods he has implemented to ensure that the state of physics education, both domestically and internationally, continues to advance. He discusses the workshops he has organized around the world for the development of Active Learning in Optics and Photonics (ALOP). These workshops also involve Interactive Lecture Demonstrations (ILDs), which Sokoloff has utilized throughout his career as a physics educator. He also reflects on creating Home-Adapted ILDs during COVID so that students could continue learning about these concepts during the pandemic. Sokoloff talks about how he has grappled with active throughout the pandemic, when so many aspects of education have been forced online. He discusses the challenges of replicating live learning situations through online platforms. Sokoloff then looks back on his time at MIT and his engagement with local and national politics during the 1960s and 1970s, particularly with the Teacher Corps. He returns to his discussions of Active Learning workshops and his multi-year collaboration with Priscilla Laws and Ron Thornton. Towards the end of the interview, Sokoloff remarks upon his experiences as a rep to the U.S. Liaison Committee for the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics, a rep to the International Commission on Physics Education, and a recipient of the Oersted Medal. Sokoloff rounds out the conversation discussing the importance of active learning in physics education, as well as how vital it is that students are given the space and opportunity to question ideas, make mistakes, and speak up for themselves. 

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

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Laurence Yaffe, chair of the department of physics at the University of Washington. Yaffe recounts his childhood in northern California and his early interests in science and the influence of his mother, who was a chemist. He discusses his undergraduate experience at Caltech, where he became absorbed in physics even as he continued in his major in chemistry. Yaffe explains his graduate offer from John Wheeler to pursue a Ph.D. in physics at Princeton. He describes the intellectual benefits of going back and forth between the Institute and the department, and he discusses his relationship with his graduate advisor, David Gross. Yaffe explains why he believes string theory should continue to be pursued, particularly in light of developments related to AdS/CFT duality. He describes his decision to return to Caltech for his postdoctoral research, and he recounts his considerations with competing faculty offers from Caltech and Princeton. Yaffe discusses his early faculty career at Princeton and his work on quark and lepton masses and the large-N limit of QCD or Yang-Mills theory. He describes the events leading to his decision to join the faculty at UW and his ongoing interests in QCD. Yaffe explains the evolution of quantum field theory over the course of his career, and he describes how advances in computers have revolutionized theory. He discusses some of the challenges inherent in the current state of the field, and he discusses his advisory work for the Department of Energy. At the end of the interview, Yaffe reflects on the overall and historic excellence of the department of physics at UW, and he explains why he will remain interested in quantum entanglement for the foreseeable future.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Wick Haxton, professor of physics at UC Berkeley. Haxton recounts his childhood in Santa Cruz and his early interests in math and science. He describes his undergraduate education at the newly created UC Santa Cruz where his initial interest was in mathematics before he was given the advice that he did “mathematics like a physicist.” Haxton discusses his graduate work at Stanford where his original intent was to study general relativity before he connected with Dirk Walecka and Bill Donnelly to focus on nuclear theory and dense nuclear matter. He discusses his postdoctoral research at the University of Mainz where he concentrated on photo-pion physics during the early days of chiral perturbation theory, and he explains the opportunities that led to his next appointment at the LAMPF facility at Los Alamos. Haxton emphasizes the excellence of both his colleagues and the computational capacity at the Lab, and he describes his faculty appointment at Purdue and the solar neutrino experiment he contributed to in Colorado. He explains the opportunities that led to him joining the faculty at the University of Washington where the DOE was about to fund the Institute for Nuclear Theory. Haxton explains the “breakup” between nuclear theory and particle theory and how the INT addressed that. Haxton discusses the opportunities afforded at the INT to engage in nuclear astrophysics and he explains the rise and fall of the Homestake DUSEL project. He explains his decision to go emeritus at UW and to join the faculty at UC Berkeley and to be dual hatted at the Berkeley Lab, and he describes his tenure as department chair. At the end of the interview, Haxton describes his current work organizing the new Physics Frontier Center and the challenges presented by the pandemic, and he credits his formative time as Los Alamos for the diverse research agenda he has pursued throughout his career.