Surfaces (Physics)

Interviewed by
Jon Phillips
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Joachim Stöhr, Professor Emeritus of the Photon Science Department at Stanford and former Associate Laboratory Director at SLAC. Stöhr begins the interview recounting his childhood in Germany, his interest in sports, and his introduction to physics in high school. He discusses his undergraduate studies at Bonn University and his Fulbright scholarship to Washington State University where he studied optical spectroscopy. Stöhr then describes his doctoral studies with Rudolf Mossbauer in Munich, and his subsequent postdoctoral position at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He recounts his time as a staff scientist at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL) before transitioning into a position at Exxon and then IBM. Stöhr describes his return to Stanford and SSRL, working as Deputy Director and then Director. He then talks about accepting the opportunity to become the first director of the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) and the challenges that came with building up a new program. The interview concludes with Stöhr’s reflections on his return to the science after his directorship and his work on a forthcoming book.

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 Cherry Murray, Professor of Physics and Deputy Director of Research at Biosphere 2 at the University of Arizona. She describes some of the logistical challenges in managing Biosphere 2 during the pandemic, and she considers how current political and environmental crises perhaps make the research at Biosphere 2 all the more urgently needed. Murray reflects on how her work at the DOE has been an asset for Biosphere 2 and she recounts her early childhood, first in Japan and then Pakistan during her father’s postings for the Foreign Service. She describes her high school education in Virginia and then South Korea and the opportunities that led to her undergraduate admission at MIT, where she became close with Millie Dresselhaus. Murray explains her decision to remain at MIT for graduate work to conduct research in surface physics under the direction of Tom Greytak. She discusses her subsequent work at Bell Labs on negative positron work functions and where she rose to become Vice President, and she provides context for some of the exciting developments in superconductivity. Murray explains the circumstances and impact of the breakup of Bell Labs, and she reflects on her contributions on surface enhanced Raman scattering during her tenure. She discusses her work with Ernest Moniz, the circumstances of her being named Deputy Director for Science and Technology at Livermore Lab, she describes her tenure at Harvard and the development of the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and her experiences as Commissioner of the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. At the end of the interview, Murray discusses the development of Biosphere 2, some of its early stumbles, and the vast research value it promises for the long term.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Sunil Sinha, Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Department of Physics at the University of California, San Diego. Sinha describes how he has been able to keep up his research during the COVID pandemic, and he recounts his childhood in Calcutta where he attended Catholic schools and developed his interests in math and science. He describes his undergraduate education at Cambridge where he became interested is quantum mechanics, and he explains his decision to remain there for graduate work to conduct research on neutron scattering under the direction of Gordon Squires. Sinha explains the centrality of neutron scattering to the development of condensed matter physics, and he describes the opportunities leading to his postdoctoral research at Iowa State. He discusses his work at Ames Lab and Argonne Lab, where he continued to pursue fundamental research on neutron scattering and rare earth materials. Sinha describes his research at Exxon Lab, and the start of the revolution in soft matter physics, and he explains his decision to return to Argonne at the beginning of the Advanced Photon Source project. He discusses his subsequent move to San Diego where he enjoyed a joint appointment with Los Alamos Lab and when he was able to concentrate more fully on teaching after a career spent mostly in laboratory environments. At the end of the interview, Sinha describes his current interest in spin glasses, exchange biases, and jamming theoretical computer simulations, and he explains the reason for the enduring mystery of the mechanism for high-temperature superconductivity. 

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Ellen D. Williams, Director of the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center and Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland. Williams recounts her childhood in Michigan, and the benefits that she enjoyed growing up during the height of the U.S. car manufacturing era. She discusses her undergraduate education at Michigan State where she developed an interest in physical chemistry and become involved in women’s rights issues. Williams explains her decision to attend Caltech for graduate school, where she conducted thesis research on the statistical mechanics of surfaces using electron diffraction. She describes the opportunities leading to her appointment in physics and astronomy at Maryland, and she explains the transition from chemistry to a physics department, which was smoothed by the fact that her research focused on phase transitions and critical phenomena. Williams describes achieving tenure and her work within the Institute for Physical Science and Technology. She explains her research in scanning tunneling microscopes and nanotechnologies, and her increasing fluency in working with government funding agencies. Williams explains her decision to join BP as chief scientist where she was involved in fostering BP’s commitment to sustainability, and she describes Ernest Moniz’s offer for her to direct ARPA-E at DOE during the second term of the Obama administration. She conveys her enjoyment working in such a focused manner on clean energy in this role and her contributions to the Paris Climate Accord. Williams describes returning to Maryland and explains the most efficacious way of teaching students about both the science and policy implications of climate change. At the end of the interview, Williams discusses her work as director of the Earth Systems Science Interdisciplinary Center and the ongoing governmental collaborations this position allows, and she offers optimism that we have both the technological and political tools to mitigate climate change effectively.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Piero Pianetta, Research Professor in the Photon Science Department, joint with Electrical Engineering, at Stanford. He recounts his family’s Italian heritage, and his upbringing in Italy and then in California. He explains his interest in pursuing physics as an undergraduate at Santa Clara University, and his graduate work at Stanford where he worked on monochromator experiments and contributed to the SPEAR collaboration at SLAC. Pianetta discusses his scientific interests converging on surface science and the influence of Seb Doniach on his research. He describes his postgraduate work at HP where he focused on laser annealing and subsequently SSRL to conduct research on device technology and photoemission techniques. Pianetta explains how SSRL became integrated in SLAC and how he became administratively housed in the Photon Science department, and how this development is illustrative of the way SLAC has diversified its research and redefined its relationship with the Department of Energy. He describes his most recent responsibilities as chair of the photon science group at SLAC and his current work chairing the laboratory promotions committee. At the end of the interview, Pianetta reflects on the long-term impact of remote work for SLAC generally and he conveys optimism on improving SSRL’s long-term capabilities.

Interviewed by
Paul Holloway
Interview date
Location
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Abstract

H. Frederick Dylla discusses topics such as: ruby laser; Bell Laboratories; RCA Engineering Research Center, Canton, New Jersey; Edgerton, Germeshausen, and Grier, Inc. (EG&G); Harold Edgerton; Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); Franklin Instiutte; Richard Feynman; Mark Zemansky; Princeton University; John King; molecular beams; atomic clocks; bachelors work on acoustics; masters research on low temperature physics; doctoral research on surface physics; Ted Madey; John Yates; Jim Murday; Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory; tokamaks; Sandia National Laboratories; Ray Weiss; Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO); benefits of professional societies; Manfred Kaminsky; Argonne National Laboratory; AVS; Journal of Vacuum Science and Technology; National Bureau of Standards (NBS); National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST); Paul Redhead; National Research Council (NRC), Canada; Dennis Manos; College of William and Mary; John Coburn; Harold Winters; Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF); Southeastern Universities Research Association (SURA); George Neil; Jefferson Laboratory; free electron lasers; Star Wars program; electron beam accelerator; linear accelerator (LINAC); Rey Whetten; American Institute of Physics.