Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Murdock Gilchriese, Senior Physicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. He discusses his contribution to the major project, LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ) and the broader search for dark matter, he recounts his parents’ missionary work, and his upbringing in Los Angeles and then in Tucson. Gilchriese describes his early interests in science and his undergraduate experience at the University of Arizona, where he developed is expertise in experimental high energy physics. He discusses his graduate work at SLAC where he worked with Group B headed by David Leith, and he describes his research in hadron spectroscopy. Gilchriese explains his postdoctoral appointment at the University of Pennsylvania sited at Fermilab to do neutrino physics before he accepted his first faculty position at Cornell to help create an e+/e- collider and the CLEO experiment. He discusses the inherent risk of leaving Cornell to work for the SSC project with the central design group, and then as head of the Research Division. Gilchriese describes his subsequent work on the solenoidal detector and his transfer to Berkeley Lab to succeed George Trilling and to join the ATLAS collaboration. He explains the migration of talent and ideas from the SSC to CERN and discusses the research overlap of ATLAS and CMS and how this accelerated the discovery of the Higgs. Gilchriese describes his next interest in getting into cosmology and searching for dark matter as a deep underground science endeavor, and he explains why advances in the field have been so difficult to achieve. At the end of the interview, Gilchriese describes his current work on CMB-S4, his advisory work helping LBNL navigate the pandemic, and he reflects on the key advances in hardware that have pushed experimental physics forward during his career.

Interviewed by
Michael Riordan
Interview dates
March 22, 1997 & March 31, 1998
Location
University of Texas at Austin
Abstract

This pair of interviews was conducted as part of the research for the book Tunnel Visions, a history of the Superconducting Super Collider. The first interview begins by examining Schwitters’s perspective as leader of the Collider Detector at Fermilab (CDF) while the initial design phases of the SSC project were unfolding, including his preparation of briefing materials on the project and service on its Board of Overseers. Schwitters also discusses early SSC cost estimates, his service on the National Academies site-evaluation committee, and his selection as director of the SSC Laboratory. He addresses the disappointment of some that Maury Tigner was not chosen, negotiations for Tigner to be deputy director or project manager, and Tigner’s departure from the project. Schwitters reflects on considerations in the development of the management & operations contract proposal, personnel-recruiting difficulties, and the tension between industrial and scientific styles of project management, including Tom Bush’s management of the SSC magnet program. The first interview concludes with a detailed account of difficulties in working with the Department of Energy, and particularly Office of Energy Research Director Robert Hunter, in assembling the lab’s senior management in early 1989.

The second interview begins with Schwitters recalling the selection of Texas as the SSC site, the disappointment of some that Fermilab was not chosen, and his own willingness to relocate to any of the final candidate sites. Schwitters also discusses the recruitment of Helen Edwards to lead the SSC accelerator program and Tigner’s preferred choices for various key roles at the lab. Schwitters reflects on difficulties surrounding magnet development, Bush’s poor relationship with Edwards, and his own desire to avoid design risk and a protracted accelerator commissioning. He discusses in detail the decision to redesign the magnets with a wider aperture, including his conviction on the basis of simulations that it was necessary, and the factors driving the growth of cost estimates around the redesign. Schwitters also addresses considerations involving proposals to descope the SSC to reduce costs, difficulties in assembling a strong management team, and the shortcomings of Sverdrup as a construction subcontractor. He also reflects on his relationship with the Department of Energy, Energy Secretary Watkins’s reaction to cost increases, and Ed Siskin’s performance as DOE’s project manager. Near the conclusion of the second interview, Schwitters reflects on his goal of creating a new scientific community around the laboratory.

Interviewed by
Steve Weiss
Interview date
Abstract

Interview with Alvin Trivelpiece, American physicist who served as Director of the Office of Energy Research in the United States Department of Energy from 1981-1987. Trivelpiece provides an overview of his graduate studies at Caltech and his background in plasma physics. He discusses in detail his involvement in the beginnings of the SSC (Superconducting Super Collider), including cost estimations, funding requests, site selection, and attempts to secure international collaboration. Trivelpiece shares stories involving many key players who were supporters of the SSC, as well as some who were opposed. He also touches on the creation of other DOE projects such as Fermilab and CEBAF (Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility).

Interviewed by
Jon Phillips
Interview date
Location
video conference
Abstract

Interview with Abel Méndez, professor of physics and astrobiology at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo. In this interview, Professor Méndez discusses his upbringing in Puerto Rico and early interest in astronomy, his education at the University of Puerto Rico and work at Fermilab, and the early stages of his work on astrobiology with NASA. He describes the origins of the Planetary Habitability Lab at Arecibo and his work studying exoplanets for potential suitability for life. Finally, he discusses the work environment at Arecibo, the impact of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico, the collapse of the telescope’s dish, and the potential future of the Observatory.

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
Location
Teleconference
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 date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with A.J. Stewart Smith, the Class of 1909 Professor of Physics, emeritus, at Princeton University, who also served as the university vice president for the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. Smith begins the interview with an overview of his affiliations with SNOLAB, CERN, and Italian Nuclear and Particle Physics. He recaps the effects of the pandemic on experimental particle physics. Smith then summarizes his family history and his childhood in Canada, where he became interested in the sciences in high school. Smith recalls his undergraduate studies in physics at University of British Columbia, where he also earned a master’s degree, as well as his decision to pursue a PhD at Princeton. He describes working on the Princeton-Penn Accelerator with his advisor Pierre Piroue, and the subsequent offer of a fellowship at DESY working with Sam Ting on QED. Smith recounts his move back to Princeton to join the faculty, and he describes the “bipartisanship” between experimentalists and theorists at the time. He discusses the origins of the Chicago-Princeton collaboration at Fermilab, his involvement with E-787 experiment at Brookhaven, and his time as technical coordinator and spokesperson for the BaBar experiment. The interview concludes with Smith’s recollections of his time as Princeton’s first dean of research, as well as his reflections on times when theory has led experimentation, and vice versa.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
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 date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Herman B. White, physicist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. White recounts his childhood in Tuskegee, Alabama and growing up during segregation. He discusses his early interests in science and his decision to enroll at Earlham College in Indiana as an undergraduate. White then describes his time at Michigan State University as a graduate student, during which he also held a position as a resident research associate at Argonne National Laboratory. Dr. White talks about his transition from nuclear physics to particle physics upon completing his master’s degree at MSU. He discusses the events that led him to accept a position at Fermilab rather than immediately pursue a PhD. White was the first African-American scientist appointed at Fermilab, and he recounts his early years there being mentored by Raymond Stefanski. He then describes his research fellowship at Yale and his non-traditional path to getting a PhD in 1991 from Florida State University. White talks about returning to Fermilab to work on kaon physics, and his eventual involvement in the Tevatron experiment. Toward the end of the interview, White reflects on the changes and trends he has seen in the research being done at Fermilab over the years, as well as his involvement in the National Society of Black Physicists.