Interview with David Griffiths, Professor Emeritus of Physics at Reed College. Griffiths discusses his current projects on Sidney Coleman’s lecture series and a completing a fifth edition of his textbook on electrodynamics. He surveys the current interplay between experiment in theory in today’s world of particle physics, and he reflects on his career rooted in small teaching colleges, as opposed to pursuing an alternate path at large research universities. Griffiths recounts his childhood in Berkeley and then in Madison in support of his father’s academic career, and he describes finishing out high school in Vermont before attending Harvard. He laments the poor physics education Harvard offered when he was an undergraduate, and he explains his decision to remain at Harvard for graduate school, where Sidney Coleman and Carl Bender advised his thesis work on massless field theory. Griffiths discusses his postdoctoral appoints at the University of Utah and then the University of Massachusetts, and he explains how the November revolution at SLAC resonated with him. After brief teaching appointments at Mount Holyoke and Trinity Colleges, Griffiths explains his decision to join the faculty at Reed and how he learned to strike the right balance between teaching and research. He describes the origins and his motivations in writing textbooks for physics students and how he has integrated pedagogy into his mentorship of students. Griffiths discusses the influence of Kuhn in his more recent survey of physics in the twentieth century, and at the end of the interview, he explains why including students in his own research is both personally and academically meaningful.
Interview with Tsuneyoshi (Tune) Kamae, Professor Emeritus, both of the University of Tokyo, Department of Physics and of SLAC. Kamae discusses his current work configuring digital devices on science education for the visually impaired, and he recounts his childhood in Himeji and then Osaka, Japan and his early memories of World War II. He describes his undergraduate education at Kyoto University and his developing interest in physics and the opportunity that led to his acceptance at Princeton to work with Val Fitch on the root cause of CP violation. Kamae describes his postdoctoral work at KEK in Japan, where he studied the internal motion of the proton inside the nucleus, and he explains the circumstances that led him to LBL and then SLAC to work on the Time Projection Chamber. He discusses his involvement with the SSC planning and how he became involved in X-ray astronomy. Kamae discusses SLAC’s embrace of astrophysics under the leadership of Burt Richter, and he reflects on some of the cultural differences in physics environments in the United States and Japan. At the end of the interview Kamae shares his hopes for the future of the education program he is developing, and he discusses some of the strategic challenges Japan is facing in light of its demographic trends.
Interview with Arthur Eisenkraft, Professor of Physics, Distinguished Professor of Science Education, and Director of the Center of Science and Math in Context (COSMIC) at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. He explains the origins of COSMIC and its role in his transition from high school to university teaching, and he discusses his current focus on the Wipro Science Education Fellowship Program. Eisenkraft surveys current trends in science pedagogy, and he reflects on the value of UMass Boston’s diverse student population for his research. He recounts his upbringing in Queens, his strong public school education, and his decision to go to Stony Brook for college where he started to think about education in scientific terms. Eisenkraft discusses his experience with the Peace Corps in Nepal before returning to Stony Brook for graduate school to work under Cliff Swartz on Fourier optics. He discusses his PhD research at NYU in science education and he explains his decision to pursue high school teaching. Eisenkraft surveys his advisory work for the National Research Council and how the NAEP Frameworks Project started. He explains his strategic partnership with Toshiba, and he describes the feedback mechanisms that inform his research. At the end of the interview, Eisenkraft frames teaching as a means to learning, and he conveys his interest in watching how higher education plans to combat systemic racism in the future.
Interview with Nergis Mavalvala, Kathleen and Curtis Marble Professor of Physics and Dean of the School of Science at MIT. Mavalvala surveys her administrative focus as Dean in a time of the pandemic, and to foster inter-departmental research. Mavalvala recounts her childhood in Karachi, Pakistan, and her Zoroastrian heritage, and she explains the opportunities that led to her coming to the United States where she pursued her undergraduate education at Wellesley and she developed her skills in experimental physics and in the machine shop. She describes her decision to attend MIT for graduate school, and she narrates meeting Rai Weiss and her involvement in the LIGO project. Mavalvala describes coming to understand her queer identity in graduate school and her understanding of the complex arrangement between Caltech, NSF, MIT and the detector sites in Washington state and Louisiana. She discusses her postdoctoral position with the LIGO group at Caltech and her focus on mirror interferometry and Caltech’s support in securing her green card. She explains her decision to return to MIT to join the faculty and the transition to Advanced LIGO. Mavalvala narrates the excitement and moment of LIGO’s detection of gravitational waves, and she explains what it means to detect them and the broader technical, theoretical and astrophysical significance of this achievement. She describes the careful analysis to confirm that data and the excitement surrounding the announcement, and she discusses the generosity in the way that Kip Thorne, Barry Barish, and Rai Weiss accepted the Nobel Prize. Mavalvala emphasizes all of the applied scientific discovery achieved through the creation of the LIGO instrumentation, and she talks about her work as a professor and mentor to graduate students. She explains her decision in accepting the dean position and how she maintained an active research agenda. At the end of the interview, Mavalvala describes all of the fundamental discovery that can be made as the LIGO collaboration charts its future.
Interview with Eugenia Etkina, Distinguished Professor of Science Education in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University. She laments the absence of pedagogical considerations in the approach most physicists take to teaching in their area of expertise, and she describes the opportunities to work with physicists to improve their teaching skills. Etkina talks about appreciating the culture of physics as an instrumental part of teaching the next generation to ensure advancement in discovery. She recounts her upbringing in Moscow where her father was a physicist and the social and educational constraints she experienced as a Jewish person. Etkina describes her education at Moscow State Pedagogical University and her interest in teaching physics, which she pursued at a prestigious high school in Moscow. She explains the origins of Investigative Science Learning Environment (ISLE) and the benefits that Glasnost and Perestroika had on teachers in Russia. Etkina describes her dissertation research, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the opportunities that allowed for her emigration to the United States to join the faculty at Rutgers. She describes the adoption of the ISLE approach all over the world and she reflects on the role of science education in combatting science skepticism. At the end of the interview, Etkina reflects on the most important feedback mechanism to determine how to improve pedagogical approaches, and she shares her hope for ISLE to be adopted in every physics classroom.
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.
In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Robert C. Dynes, Research Professor, Emeritus President of the University of California, and Emeritus Chancellor of UC San Diego. Dynes recounts his childhood in Ontario, his early interests in science, and his decision to attend the University of Western Ontario for college. He explains his decision to pursue a PhD at McMaster University, and he describes some of the advances in superconductivity that were exciting at that time. Dynes discusses his postdoctoral research at Bell Labs and he emphasizes that the research culture was geared exclusively to basic science and had nothing to do with financial considerations toward Bell’s business. He describes his political engagement during the Vietnam Era and he describes the changing culture at Bell during the breakup in the 1980s when he was Director of Chemical Physics. Dynes discusses his research on thin films of metals at the atomic level, and he explains the circumstances leading to his tenure at UC San Diego. He explains how the university was building up across the sciences, and he conveys how important teaching was to him. Dynes describes the process leading to being named Chancellor, and he reviews his challenges and accomplishments in this role. He compares the Chancellor’s responsibilities to those of the UC President, to which he was named in 2003, and he describes his efforts to remain active in research even as he was running the entire UC system. Dynes describes the existential challenge of being president at a time that the state was defunding public education, and he describes some of his key successes in faculty recruitment. He conveys his delight when his term as president ended and he was able to return to the physics department in San Diego. At the end of the interview Dynes cites integrity and creativity as the characteristics that he sees as most fundamental to success in science.
In this interview Richard Garwin discusses topics such as: his parents, growing up in Cleveland, education, Case Institute of Technology (Case Western Reserve University), Leon Lederman, muons, cyclotron, University of Chicago, Enrico Fermi, nuclear reactors, coincidence circuits.This interview is part of a collection of interviews on the life and work of Richard Garwin. To see all associated interviews, click here.
Undergraduate at University of Pittsburgh, B.A., 1916; instructorship in physics at University of Kentucky; teaching mathematics at Mercer University, Georgia; graduate thesis at University of Chicago with Dempster. Discouraging experiences with American Physical Society (APS), beginning 1916; invited to 1929 Des Moines meeting by Paul Klopsteg to discuss role of teachers in APS; invited to head group; Glen Warner, Klopsteg, States and S. L. Redman meeting in Chicago, 1930; preparation for and confrontation at Cleveland meeting of APS. Homer L. Dodge and Harold W. Webb; formation of American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), Floyd Richtmyer and Karl Compton; beginning of joint meetings between APS and AAPT (1933). AAPT became founding member of AIP. The AAPT journal; development of bylaws and policies of AAPT; election of Frederic Palmer as president, 1933; David L. Webster's presidency. Effect of AAPT on teaching profession. The Orsted medal; the Taylor Memorial Fund.