Crystallography

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with John Spence, Richard Snell Professor of Physics at Arizona State University. Spence discusses his dual role as a Director of Science at NSF and his focus on research at the intersection of biology and physics. He recounts his childhood in Australia and his undergraduate education at Queensland University. Spence describes his graduate research on plasmons at Melbourne and the opportunities that led to his postdoctoral appointment at Oxford, where he worked with Mike Whelan and David Cockayne on quantifying atom arrangements in solids. He describes his decision to join the faculty at Arizona State, and the nascent field of high-resolution electron microscopy, which compelled him to write a book on the topic. Spence discusses his work on the structure of defects in superconductors and his collaborations with Bell Labs, and he explains the significance of the LCLS to his research. He describes the BioXFEL project, his work as part of the broader community of crystallographers, and the intellectual origins of the book "Lightspeed". At the end of the interview, Spence credits Michael Crow for bringing ASU to the forefront of so much innovation in science, and he reflects on how physics has never failed to surprise him.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with William Duax, professor emeritus at the Hauptman-Woodward Institute. Duax recounts his childhood in Illinois, and he describes his early interests in the theater and bee keeping, before he focused on science at St. Ambrose University. He describes his decision to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Iowa, and he talks about his introduction to quantum chemistry and X-ray crystallography. Duax discusses his postdoctoral research growing crystals with Abe Clearfield at Ohio University, and he explains the circumstances leading to his decision to join the faculty at HWI. He describes his developing interests in endocrinology and the formative influence of David Harker at the Roswell Park Research Crystallographic Center. Duax describes the long-term support of the NIH for his research agenda, and he discusses the value of his appointment at SUNY Buffalo. He recounts his long-term involvement in the American Crystallographic Association and his ongoing research interests in steroid structure and ribosomal proteins. Duax explains the importance of taking an evolutionary approach to his research, and he discusses some recent advances in bioinformatics. At the end of the interview, Duax describes his interest in social justice movements, and in particular, Black Lives Matter, and he explains the future promises of electron microscopy. 

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Lene Hau, Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Harvard. Hau recounts her childhood in Denmark and her early interests in science, and she describes her education at the University of Aarhus. She describes her studies in math and physics and her determination to build something meaningful for experimentation. Hau describes her interest in using lasers to cool down atoms during her postdoctoral work at Harvard and at the Rowland Institute, and she describes the opportunities that led to her full-time work at Rowland. She describes her collaboration with Jene Golovchenko and the impact of the discovery of Bose-Einstein condensation in 1995. Hau details the experiments that initially slowed down and then ultimately stop light in a Bose-Einstein condensate. She explains her decision to join the Harvard faculty and she surveys some of the practical applications of her research. Hau describes her research in nanoscale systems and her interest in applying her research to create more energy efficient systems with the explicit goal of addressing climate change. She describes some of the difficulties and systemic biases that women have to deal with in the sciences, particularly when they achieve prominence. At the end of the interview, Hau explains her interest to promote diversity in physics and particularly to encourage students who are the first in their generation to go to college.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Robert Cava, Russell Wellman Moore Professor of Chemistry at Princeton. He describes his dual appointment in the Princeton Materials Institute and he reflects on the distinctions between being a solid state and not a condensed matter chemist. Cava recounts his childhood in Brooklyn and the opportunities that led to his undergraduate admission to MIT. He discusses his studies in materials science, and his decision to stay on for a PhD to study crystallography and the properties of sulfide materials under the direction of Bernie Wuensch. Cava describes some of the advances in ceramics that was important to him, and he discusses his work on sodium electrolytes at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. He explains his decision to join the Sold State Chemistry Research Department Bell Labs, and he describes some of the exciting developments in ceramic superconductors and why superconductivity is a window onto the complexity of solids. Cava discusses the significance of the YCBO collaboration, he describes the impact of the breakup of Bell Labs and his subsequent decision to transfer to Princeton. He explains some of the cultural shifts that allowed Princeton to become more involved in applied science, and he discusses what he learned about academic politics during his time as chair of the Department of Chemistry. Cava discusses his career-long search for new compounds and studying transition metal oxides, and he describes the many advances in thermoelectronics. At the end of the interview, Cava reflects on his scientific contributions, and he emphasizes the value in science of being a good listener.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Wayne Hendrickson, Violin Family Professor of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics at Columbia University. Hendrickson recounts his childhood on a dairy farm in Wisconsin and explains how this environment fostered his interest in the natural world. He describes his undergraduate experience at the University of Wisconsin at River Falls, and his formative work at Argonne Lab where he studied Caesium-137 levels in beagle dogs. Hendrickson describes his intent to focus on biophysics in graduate school and his decision to accept at offer at Johns Hopkins, where he became interested in protein crystallography and electron microscopy. He discusses his dissertation research under the direction of Warner Love and the importance of the research conducted at Woods Hole which influences his work on studying hemoglobin in lampreys. Hendrickson describes the importance of computational biology and the promises this offered protein crystallography, and he explains the influence of Linus Pauling in advancing the field. He explains why he stayed on at Hopkins after his defense because he felt there was more work for him to complete on the Patterson function. Hendrickson discusses his work at the Naval Research Laboratory on parvalbumin molecules and his developing interests in anomalous scattering techniques. He discusses how the field matured and had gained broader acceptance, and he surmises how these trends led to recruitment efforts that led to his tenure at Columbia in the 1980s. Hendrickson explains the labyrinthine nature of his many appointments and affiliations at Columbia, and the opportunities he has had to teach and to mentor graduate students within an environment that is primarily research-focused. He discusses the improvement of technology over the course of his time at Columbia, and he discusses his work on beamlines at Howard Hughes and Brookhaven. Hendrickson describes his work as scientific director of the New York Structural Biology Center, and he explains how his research has moved closer toward clinical motivations in recent years. At the end of the interview, Hendrickson reflects on his long career in biophysics, and he draws on the story of HIV infectivity as an example of how the field can progress from a place of really not understanding basic biological problems, to developing effective therapies.

 

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Philip Anfinrud, Senior Biomedical Research Scientist, National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, at the National Institutes of Health. Anfinrud likens his work environment to the “Bell Labs of Biophysics” and he expresses his pride in working with colleagues conducting research at the cutting-edge of their respective fields. He recounts his upbringing in small town North Dakota and how he developed his early interests in atmospheric chemistry. Anfinrud describes the circumstances leading to his graduate work at Berkeley, and how he approached his interests in physics from a physical chemistry perspective. He describes his work with Walter Struve on energy transport and picosecond lasers, and he describes his postdoctoral research with Robin Hochstrasser at the University of Pennsylvania where he worked on infrared spectroscopy on the femtosecond time scale. Anfinrud discusses his first faculty appointment at Harvard, and he describes the process building a laser lab in partnership with Mitsubishi. Anfinrud explains his research on myoglobin and photolysis laser pulses, and he describes his first forays in X-ray radiation and crystallography. He describes his move to the NIH, where he created Laboratory of Ultrafast Biophysical Chemistry. Anfinrud explains the value of NMR spectroscopy to understand protein folding, and he describes how his interests are situated more in the realm of basic science and not clinically-oriented research. He discusses the value of scaling laws in physics as a means for understanding biochemical phenomena, and he describes the numerous ways that the NIH provides an ideal environment for research. At the end of the interview, Anfinrud provides an overview of his current research in time-resolved crystallography and single molecule behavior, and he describes the public health impact of his work on speech droplets as a means of transmitting the coronavirus.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Essex, Maryland
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews L. Mario Amzel, Director of the Department of Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry at Johns Hopkins. Amzel recounts his childhood in Argentina and discusses his developing interests in physics and thermodynamics as an undergraduate. He describes his graduate work in crystallography and liquid crystal displays under the direction of Leo Becka. Amzel describes the tumultuous political situation in Argentina and the impact these events had on his academic career, including his decision in 1967 to leave the country and continue his studies in Venezuela. He describes the circumstances leading to his decision to come to John Hopkins in 1969. Amzel describes the range of research projects he has worked on over the past fifty years, including his work on immunoglobulin and monoclonal antibodies, mitochondrial ATPase, leukotriene synthesis, and voltage-gated sodium channels. He explains the relevance of his work on various clinical and pharmacological therapies. Amzel emphasizes the importance and relevance of physics first principles in all of his work, and in particular statistical thermodynamics. He reflects on how his work sits at the nexus of physics, chemistry, and biology. At the end of the interview, Amzel describes the evolution of biophysics over the course of his career. 

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Teleconference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews David J. Haas, President of the Tecco Corporation. Haas discusses his work as founder of Tempbadge and he recounts his childhood in Buffalo and then Texas. He describes his undergraduate education at the University of Buffalo, where biophysics was beginning to start as a distinct discipline. Haas explains his decision to remain at Buffalo for his graduate research, working under Fred Snell, and he describes his introduction to crystallography from David Harker at the Roswell Park Memorial Institute. He emphasizes the critical support provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), both to him as a graduate student and to biophysics generally at the time. Haas discusses his postdoctoral research in cryo-crystallography with David Phillips at the Royal Institute in London, and his brief work beforehand at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, DC. He describes his subsequent work at the Weizmann Institute in Israel where he continued his research in cryo-crystallography, and he describes the scene there during the Six Day War. Haas discusses his work at the Philips Corporation in New York, where he became involved with the X-ray research that would go into security scanners at airports and stadium venues. He explains his decision to go into business for himself with the launch of Temtec for which he created self-expiring visitor badges. At the end of the interview, Haas provides an overview for some of the major advances in biophysics over the course of his career, and he expresses optimism regarding the viability of antiviral therapies for Covid-19 by the end of the year.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Helen Berman, Professor Emerita at Rutgers, where she remains affiliated with the Proteomic Center and the Institute for Quantitative Medicine. Berman recounts her childhood in Brooklyn, her early adventures in science working in a lab at Barnard College, and she expounds on how Martin Buber’s “I-Thou” concept, which she learned as an undergraduate, continues to shape her thinking today. Berman explains her early interests and talents in crystallography, which she learned from Barbara Low of Columbia. Berman describes her decision to pursue her graduate degree at the University of Pittsburgh, where she worked with George Jeffrey and where she completed her dissertation on carbohydrate crystallography. She explains the sequence of events leading to her career at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia where she researched nucleic acids, and how a personal health scare led her to make a significant personal and career shift. Berman describes her early involvement with the Protein Data Bank at Brookhaven Lab and her vision to harness computational power to grow the PDB into a massive collaborative effort and the rise of structural bioinformatics. In the last portion of the interview, Berman describes her decisions to move to California, and her recent foray into documentaries that focus on human health issues HIV and diabetes, which stem from her broader interest in improving the way that scientists interface with the broader public.

Interviewed by
Charles Weiner
Interview date
Location
New Milford, Connecticut