Electrical engineering

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Nathalie de Leon, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at Princeton. de Leon describes being an “interloper in EE” because her degree is in chemical physics, and she surveys her research agenda and how it fits across a range of departments at Princeton. She describes her Filipino heritage and her upbringing in the Philippines and in California, and discusses her scientific interests and her admission to Stanford for her undergraduate study. de Leon describes her interests in laser spectroscopy and she compares the difficulties as a student woman of color in STEM against those as a faculty woman of color in STEM. She describes her graduate research at Harvard to work with Hongkun Park on a variety of projects, including nanowire devices, photoelectrochemistry, and plasmonics. de Leon discusses many exciting developments in NV centers, and she explains her decision to remain at Harvard for her postdoctoral research to do QED experiments with atoms. de Leon describes the opportunities that led to her faculty appointment at Princeton, and the process of getting her lab operational. She discusses advances in superconducting qubits and she describes the value of applying metrics to make STEM more inclusive. At the end of the interview, de Leon explains why her curiosity about applying material science to quantum technology permeates all her research, and she expresses optimism for the future, but unknown, possibilities of quantum computing.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Norman Jouppi, Distinguished Hardware Engineer at Google. Jouppi provides an overview of the organizational hierarchy at Google and where he fits in, and he surveys the distinctions between applied physics, electrical engineering, and computer science. He recounts his childhood in suburban Chicago and his early interests in computers. He describes his undergraduate education at Northwestern where he pursued his interests in computer architecture. Jouppi discusses his graduate research at Stanford, and he reflects on the early days of startup culture in Silicon Valley. He explains the origins of MIPS and the influence of Jim Clark and John Hennessy and he describes his work for Silicon Graphics and his thesis research in CAD. Jouppi explains his decision to take his first postgraduate position at Digital Equipment Corporation and he describes the importance of VAX computing.  He explains the corporate transition from DEC to Compaq to HP, and he explains the origins internet browsing and the creation of Alta Vista. Jouppi explains the concept of telepresence and he discusses his responsibilities as director of the Advanced Architecture Lab. He explains the interest in exascale computing and his early work in artificial intelligence. Jouppi discusses his involvement in VLSI design and he explains the process that brought him to Google to work on platforms and TPU infrastructure. He reflects on how ML has changed over the years and he describes both the research and collaborative culture that Google promotes, and he explains why quantum computing is a completely different domain of computation. At the end of the interview, Jouppi considers how and when Moore’s Law will end, and he conveys his commitment to advancing technology that has a tangibly net-positive impact on society.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Moty Heiblum, Professor of Condensed Matter Physics at the Weizmann Institute in Israel. Heiblum discusses his current work in mesoscopic physics and he reflects broadly on the interplay between theory and experiment in condensed matter. He recounts his family's travails in Europe during World War II and he discusses his childhood outside Tel Aviv. Heiblum describes his military service during the Six Day War and his education at Technion. He explains his interest in focusing on integrated optics for graduate school, and he describes the convoluted path that led to his research at UC Berkeley. Heiblum talks about his postdoctoral transition to solid state research at IBM Labs, and he explains his decision to return to Israel and to build up a solid-state program at the Weizmann. He describes his longstanding interest in the quantum Hall effect and his fascination with turning electrons "on and off." Heiblum discusses his group's contributions to quasiparticle research and he reflects on receiving the Buckley Prize. At the end of the interview, Heiblum conveys his motivations in building devices, he describes the "eureka" moments in his career, and he explains his future focus on exploring the possibilities of working with gallium arsenide.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Eli Yablonovitch, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at UC Berkeley. He talks about the overlap of these fields with applied physics, and he recounts his family’s Jewish heritage in Europe and his origin as a Displaced Person born to refugee parents after World War II. Yablonovitch describes his childhood in Montreal, his early interests in science, and his undergraduate experience at McGill where he first became interested in transistors. He explains his decision to attend Harvard in Applied Physics for graduate school to and the intellectual influence of Mike Tinkham. Yablonovitch discusses his thesis research on semiconductor optics and four-wave mixing, and he describes the opportunities that led to his postdoctoral work at Bell Labs to work on laser-based communications systems. He discusses his return to Harvard as a faculty member and his subsequent solar research work at Exxon. Yablonovitch discusses his formative collaboration with Sajeev John and his move to UCLA, and he explains how the rise of the internet fostered his entrepreneurial instincts. He describes his work to improve cellphone antennae and his decision to transfer to Berkeley and the origins of Alta Devices. Yablonovitch describe his current interests in circuits and chips and he shares his view on China’s work in basic science. At the end of the interview, Yablonovitch reflects on outliving many tech companies, some of the intractable challenges of solar energy, and why Feynman’s lectures remain a guiding light for his own interests.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview dates
April 13, April 15 and April 22, 2021
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Pierre Ramond, Distinguished Professor of Physics at the University of Florida. Ramond recounts childhood in Paris, he describes his family’s experiences during World War II, and he explains that opportunities that led to his education in electrical engineering at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He discusses his graduate degree in physics at Syracuse University to focus on general relativity and his first exposure to the earliest iterations of string theory. Ramond describes his work at Fermilab on Veneziano modelling, his postdoctoral research at Yale, and his subsequent work at Los Alamos. He describes Gell-Mann’s interest in grand unified theories and the influence of Ken Wilson. Ramond explains the excitement regarding the muon anomaly experiment at Fermilab, and he narrates his decision to join the faculty at the University of Florida. He explains how the department’s stature has risen over the past forty years, and he reflects on his involvement with the superstring revolution in 1984. Ramond describes the difference between effective and fundamental theories in particle physics and he conveys the productive intellectual ferment at the annual Aspen conferences. He describes his service work on the faculty senate and he describes his leadership position at the APS during the discovery of the Higgs. Ramond explains why he thinks supersymmetry would have been detected at a completed SSC and he reflects on receiving the Dirac medal in 2020. At the end of the interview, he discusses Einstein’s misgivings on quantum mechanics, he imagines how string theory might be testable, and he explains why he remains interested in CP violation.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Remote Interview
Abstract

This is an interview with Venkatesh Narayanamurti, Benjamin Peirce Professor of Technology and Public Policy, Engineering and Applied Sciences Emeritus at Harvard. He recounts his childhood in India and he explains the origins of his nickname “Venky” by which everyone knows him, and he explains his transition from a career primarily rooted in lab work to his more current interests in science and national public policy. He describes the imperial British influence that pervaded his upbringing, and he discusses his education at St. Stephen’s College in Delhi. He explains the opportunities that lead to his graduate work at Cornell to study solid state physics with a focus on defects in crystals under the direction of Robert Pohl. Narayanamurti describes his brief return to India before he was recruited to work at Bell Labs where he ultimately rose to serve as Director of Solid-state Electronics and as head of the Semiconductor Electronics Research Department. He contextualizes his decision to join the faculty at UC Santa Barbara after working at Sandia National Lab against the backdrop of the impending breakup of Bell. He discusses his work at Dean building up the computer science, electrical engineering, and chemical engineering programs before he decided to come to Harvard where he was the founding Dean of the Engineering and Applied Sciences. He explains his interest in joining the Kennedy School as he became more interested in public policy. At the end of the interview, Narayanamurti conveys optimism that higher education in the United States will be equipped to study and offer key solutions to some of the key scientific and technological challenges of the future. 

Interviewed by
Orville Butler
Interview date
Location
Johnson School of Business, Cornell University
Abstract

In this interview David BenDaniel discusses topics such as: family background and his education; attending the University of Pennsylvania; going into the United States Navy; doing graduate work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); Herb Callen; Will Allis; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI); electrical engineering; General Electric Company research laboratories; Henry Hurwitz; Stephen Crandall; Chauncey Guy Suits; Art Bueche; Henry Ehrenreich; hydro-magnetic stability; thermonuclear containment; solid-state physics; becoming a manager; being a fellow at Harvard University Business School; Howard Kurt; Exxon Enterprises; venture capital; Harold Craighead; Cornell University School of Management.

 

Interviewed by
Charles Weiner
Interview date
Location
Barton's home, Princeton, New Jersey
Abstract

Family background; undergraduate and graduate studies at Princeton University: electrical engineering 1921, graduate research on ionization of argon and HC1, spectroscopic interests (MA 1924, PhD 1925); developmental research as engineer for American Telephone and Telegraph Laboratories (1921–1923); National Research Council Fellow at Harvard University (1925–1927); Bartol Research Foundation Fellow (1927–1929), research on impact of protons on atoms and molecules. Assistant professor at Cornell University (1929–1931), high voltage X—ray research, visit to Cavendish Laboratory; founding Director of the American Institute of Physics (AIP 1931–1957): discussions on the origins, nature and funding of AIP; early associations with the Chemical Foundation and American Chemical Society; history of selected AIP journals; public relations to promote physics; impact of Depression on physics; Depression and post J,JW II studies on physics man—power and industries Also mentioned at length are E..P. Adams, Karl Compton, Charles D. Ellis, Paul D. Foote, Alfred Loomis, Donald Mueller, Robert Mullikan, George B. Pegram, Floyd Richtmyer, Henry N. Russell, Harry D. Smyth, John T. Tate.

Interviewed by
Charles Weiner
Interview date
Location
American Institute of Physics, New York City, New York
Abstract

Family background; undergraduate and graduate studies at Princeton University: electrical engineering 1921, graduate research on ionization of argon and HC1, spectroscopic interests, (MA 1924, PhD 1925); developmental research as engineer for American Telephone and Telegraph Laboratories (1921–23); National Research Council Fellow at Harvard University (1925–27); Bartol Research Foundation Fellow (1927–29), research on “impact of protons on atoms and molecules.” Assistant professor at Cornell University (1929–31), high voltage x-ray research, visit to Cavendish Laboratory, associations (1930); Founding Director of the American Institute of Physics (1931–57): discussions on the origin, nature and funding of AIP; early associations with the Chemical Foundation and American Chemical Society; history of selected AIP journals; public relations to promote physics; Impact of Depression on physics; Depression and post World War II studies on physics manpower and industries.