Materials science

Interviewed by
Michael Duncan
Interview date
Location
San Diego, California
Abstract

Interview with Jim Hsieh, founder of Sheaumann Laser, Inc. The interview begins with Hsieh describing his childhood in China during turbulent times and his family’s move to Taiwan where he completed secondary school and college. He discusses his decision to pursue graduate school in the US at Virginia Tech and his subsequent time working at Westinghouse in the Molecular Electronics Division in Baltimore. Hsieh then continued his education first at UC Berkeley and then moved to the University of Southern California. He recalls some of the early patents he contributed to, related to circuit design and semiconductors. Hsieh describes his move to MIT Lincoln Lab where he worked under John Goodenough. He discusses the beginnings of fiber optic communication, and describes the technical aspects of his research at the time on topics such as gallium arsenide lasers, laser diodes, and quarternary lasers. Hsieh talks about his decision to start his own company, Lasertron, with Kenneth Nill, and reflects on the transition from a purely research environment to a business endeavor. He discusses witnessing the growth of the laser market and the international landscape of laser development at the time. The interview concludes with Hsieh describing the sale of Lasertron to Oak Industry and the creation of Sheaumann Laser, Inc.

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 date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Naomi Ginsberg, Associate Professor of chemistry and physics at University of California, Berkeley and faculty scientist at Lawrence Berkeley Lab. The interview begins with Ginsberg discussing her multidisciplinary background in science and how she prefers not to draw boundaries between research fields. She talks about how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected her research and the science community in general. Then Ginsberg turns to her childhood in Canada and recalls being a curious child with many interests. She describes her undergraduate studies in engineering at the University of Toronto and her summers of research at the Institute for Biodiagnostics, which is where she became seriously interested in physics. Ginsberg discusses pursuing a PhD at Harvard University under Lene Hau, where she worked on ultraslow light in Bose-Einstein condensates and superfluid dynamics. She then talks about wanting to switch gears toward biophysics and choosing to go to LBL for a post-doc in photosynthesis work. Ginsberg describes accepting her current position at Berkeley and the different cultures between the chemistry and physics departments. Towards the end of the interview, she touches on her DARPA grant for research on organic semiconductors, as well as the advances in technology that have informed and shaped her research over the years. Ginsberg looks back on the many grad students she has mentored and points to open-mindedness and confidence as key characteristics for their success.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Dale Van Harlingen, Professor of Physics at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He recounts his childhood in Ohio and his undergraduate education at OSU in physics and his early work on SQUIDS. Van Harlingen discusses his mentor Jim Garland, and he explains his decision to stay at OSU for graduate school to develop SQUID devices to make phase-sensitive measurements. He explains the opportunities that gained him a postdoctoral appointment at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge where he developed his expertise in the Josephson Effect, and where he met John Clarke, who offered him a subsequent postdoctoral position at UC Berkeley. Van Harlingen describes his foray using SQUIDS to push the quantum limit, and he explains his decision to join the faculty at Illinois, where he was impressed both with the quality of the research and how nice everyone was. He describes joining the Materials Research Laboratory and the development of the Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory, and he conveys his admiration for Tony Leggett. Van Harlingen discusses his research in NMR microscopy, grain boundary junctions, scanning tunneling microscopy, vortex configurations, and he describes his current interest in unconventional superconductors. At the end of the interview, Van Harlingen conveys his excitement about the national quantum initiative as a major collaboration between universities and National Labs, and he explains his motivation to understand if Majorana fermions actually exist.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, Yuhua Duan discusses: his role at the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) under the US Department of Energy (DoE); childhood poverty in the Chinese countryside; experience as an undergraduate in 1980s China; master’s degree in chemical physics at the University of Science and Technology (UST) in China; PhD in condensed matter physics; mentorship with T.S. Kê at UST; postdoc studying surface physics at Fudan University under Xide Xie; time at Basel University in the Institute of Physical Chemistry; research associate position at University of Minnesota (U of M) School of Physics and Astronomy under Woods Halley, modeling on the polymer electrolyte for battery applications; switch to Chemical Engineering and Materials Science Department to focus on protein-protein interaction; decision to stay in the US and apply for citizenship; joining the NETL team; research simulating the microwave sintering by finite element approach; work on CO2 capture to fight climate change; discussion of CO2 storage and use; work developing sensor materials that function under extreme conditions; discussion of quantum information science in the energy sector and quantum sensor research; tritium production research; using a supercomputer for his work, discussions of capabilities of the quantum computer; and the impact of political administration changes on work focus at NETL. Toward the end of the interview, Duan reflects on NETL’s contributions to research on controlling carbon emissions and mitigating climate change.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Vyacheslav Romanov, Research Physical Scientist at the National Energy Technology Laboratory. Romanov recounts his upbringing in the Urals region of the Soviet Union, and he describes his education at a special high school for gifted students in Moscow. He explains the circumstances that led to his enrollment at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology for graduate school and his dawning realization that one can make sense of the world through physics. Romanov discusses his thesis research on the kinetics of light-matter interactions, and he describes his postgraduate work for the Soviet Space Program to develop thin film solar cells to power the International Space Station. He discusses the collapse of science funding after the breakup of the USSR and the opportunity he saw to emigrate to the United States at part of the Symposium on Diplomacy and Global Affairs in Washington, D.C. Romanov explains why he got an MBA from Waynesburg College and how this program put him on the path to U.S. citizenship. After a stint in the materials science industry, he describes his PhD research in physical chemistry and spectroscopy at the University of Pittsburgh, and how this led to his employment at NETL, first as a postdoc and then as a full-time employee. Romanov explains his initial work in geology and data analysis, his subsequent work in optimizing power plant generation, and his current research in reducing the environmental footprint of energy systems with machine learning. He describes the political and economic ramifications of his research, and he explains why carbon-based energy is central to the transition to a de-carbonized future, which, he asserts, will take decades to realize. At the end of the interview, Romanov explains why global efforts to mitigate environmental energy problems must rely on successful cooperation between the U.S. and China. 

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Renata Wentzcovitch, professor of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics and Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University. Wentzcovitch recounts her childhood in Brazil, and she describes how her grandfather sparked her interest in science early on. She describes her education at the University of São Paulo’s Institute of Physics where she developed an interest in density functional theory. Wentzcovitch discusses her interest in pursuing a graduate degree in the United States, and her decision to attend UC Berkeley and study under the direction of Marvin Cohen. She describes her thesis research on pseudopotential plane-wave codes and super-hard materials such as boron nitride and diamonds. Wentzcovitch explains the impact of High Tc Superconductivity on both her career and the field generally, and she describes her postdoctoral research with joint appointments at Brookhaven and Stony Brook on evolving electronic wavefunctions via classical dynamics. She discusses her subsequent work with Volker Henie at Cambridge to study silicate perovskite, which in turn led to her first faculty appointment at the University of Minnesota. Wentzcovitch describes the importance of Minnesota’s Supercomputing Institute for her research, and she explains how her research focused more centrally on geophysics and the thermo-elasticity of minerals and their aggregates. She describes the founding of the Virtual Laboratory for Earth and Planetary Materials and explains her decision to join the faculty at Columbia and her involvement with VLab and the study of exchange-correlation functionals to address electronic interactions. At the end of the interview, Wentzcovitch discusses her current work on developing codes for thermodynamic computations and seismic tomography, and she conveys the value of pursuing international collaborations to fit her broad and diverse research agenda.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Lu Sham, Distinguished Professor of Physics Emeritus, University of California at San Diego. Sham recounts his childhood in Hong Kong and he describes the legacy of Japanese rule from World War II. He describes his early interests in math and he explains his decision to pursue a higher education in England at Imperial College. Sham discusses his motivation to conduct graduate work at Cambridge University and to study under Nevill Mott on the first principle method calculating the electron contribution to lattice vibration. He describes the help provided by John Ziman to secure his postdoctoral position at UC San Diego to work with Walter Kohn, and he describes the foundational collaboration and research that went into the Kohn-Sham equation and how this work builds on the classic debate between Einstein and Bohr. He describes the opportunities leading to his faculty appointment and eventual tenure on the physics faculty, and he explains the benefits of spending summers doing research at Bell Labs. Sham discusses his contributions to research on semiconductors, quantum computing, and density-functional theory. He describes his more recent interest in optics and the formative work he has done with graduate students and postdoctoral researchers over the years. Sham discusses his administrative service as department chair and Dean of Science. At the end of the interview, Sham asserts that the future of condensed matter physics holds limitless possibilities, and that improvements in semiconductor materials will push quantum information abilities in exciting and unforeseen directions.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Margaret Murnane, professor of physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder, fellow at JILA, and director of the NSF STROBE Science and Technology Center. Murnane recounts her childhood in Ireland and emphasizes that, culturally, she was encouraged to pursue her interests in science from a young age. She discusses her undergraduate education at University College Cork where she focused on physics and developed her specialties in experimentation with light. Murnane describes the opportunities leading to her graduate work at UC Berkeley, where, for her thesis research, she developed a high-power femtosecond laser to create X-ray emitting plasma. She describes her first faculty appointment at Washington State University in Pullman where she continued work in ultrafast laser science, and she explains the decision to transfer to the University of Michigan at the Center for Ultrafast Optics. Murnane discusses her subsequent decision to join the faculty at JILA, where the instrumentation and opportunities for collaboration in her field were peerless. She describes the centrality of achieving very fast X-ray pulses to her field, and she describes some recent advances in applications such as EUV lithography. Murnane discusses the work that remains to be done to ensure that STEM promotes diversity and inclusivity, and she reflects on the many excellent graduate students she has mentored. At the end of the interview, Murnane conveys her excitement at the possibilities offered in the future of ultrafast lasers, including the ability of real-time microscopes that can make three-dimensional nanoscale and A-scale movies.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Alice White, Professor and Chair of Mechanical Engineering at Boston University. She recounts her childhood as the daughter of a Bell Labs physicist and her early interests in learning how things work, and she explains her decision to attend Middlebury College. White describes her formative fellowship at Bell Labs and her graduate research in physics at Harvard, where Mike Tinkham supervised her research. She describes being hired by Bob Dynes at MTS in Bell Labs for her postdoctoral research in low temperature physics and she discusses her subsequent work with John Poate on ion implantation. White explains her increasing involvement in optics and the significance of this work during the "dot com" boom and she narrates the reorganization and breakup of Bell. She describes the opportunities that led to her faculty appointment at BU, and she describes working at the interface between mechanical engineering and physics. White describes creating the Multiscale Laser Lithography Lab and her overlapping research interests with biologists, and she reflects on some of the advantages at BU of operating in the shadows of MIT and Harvard. She discusses her tenure as department chair and her research on 3D printing for cardiac repairs. At the end of the interview, White reflects on working at Bell Labs at the height of American power and ingenuity, she emphasizes the importance of encouraging her students to take scientific risks, and she indicates that her future research will be devoted to climate change.