Interview with Mark Trodden, Fay R. and Eugene L. Langberg Professor of Physics, and Co-Director of the Center for Particle Cosmology at the University of Pennsylvania. Trodden describes the overlap between astronomy, astrophysics, and cosmology, and he recounts his working-class upbringing in England. He discusses his undergraduate education at Cambridge, where he focused on mathematics, and he explains his decision to switch to physics for graduate school at Brown, where he worked under the direction of Robert Brandenberger. Trodden describes the impact of the COBE program during this time, and he discusses his work on the microphysics of cosmic strings and topological defects and their effect on baryon asymmetry. He explains his decision to return to Cambridge for his postdoctoral research with Anne Davis and his subsequent postdoctoral appointment at MIT to work with Alan Guth. Trodden discusses his next postdoctoral position at Case Western, which he describes as a tremendously productive period, and he discusses the opportunities that led to his first faculty position at Syracuse. He notes the excellent graduate students he worked with at Syracuse, and he explains what is known and not known with regard to the discovery of the accelerating universe. Trodden describes why the theory of cosmic inflation remains outside the bounds of experimental verification, and he explains the decisions that led to his decision to join the faculty at Penn and his subsequent appointment as chair of the department. He discusses the work that Penn Physics, and STEM in general, needs to do to make diversity and inclusivity more of a top-line agenda, and he describes much of the exciting work his current and former graduate students are involved in. At the end of the interview, Trodden looks to the future and offers ideas on how physicists may ultimately come to understand dark energy and dark matter.
In this interview Harry Deckman, recently retired as Senior Scientific Advisor at ExxonMobil Corporate Strategic Research, explains the many research and consulting facets of this work, and the collaborations he has participated in over his career which has tracked with technical and geopolitical developments. Deckman emphasizes ExxonMobil’s commitment to research in non-petroleum energy sources in parallel with finding new oil and gas reserves. He discusses: his childhood outside of Cleveland; early interests in science and the excellent public school offerings he received; undergraduate education at Case Western where he focused on solid state physics; his decision to go to Iowa State for his PhD, where Constantine Stassis supervised his thesis research on magnetic neutron scattering; his initial appointment in Exxon’s Corporate Research Lab to work on laser fusion, the impetus of this research in light of the energy crisis of the 1970s, and the many experiments and collaborations in the Lab that mixed basic and applied science, including the demonstration that laser plasma could be a source for X-ray lithography; the rise of soft matter physics as a discrete subfield, and the impact of the information revolution in the 1980s on his research agenda and his focused interest in absorbed molecules and studying isotherms and transport; his work with novel reactors and coupled waves in geoscience, and why his work in carbon dioxide separations marked a major turning point in his career both as a fascinating area of research and because of the imperative at Exxon to address carbon emissions; his work on hydrocarbons and their value as an affordable energy source; his interests, in retirement, to continue searching for solutions for greenhouse gas mitigation strategies.
Van Vleck Observatory, Wesleyan University, Middleton, Connecticut
Interview covers early education in Minneapolis and Washington, D.C. and early interests in astronomy and science; early contact with H. Luyten (1940); graduate school at the University of Michigan and continuation of graduate work at Case; Jason Nassau and galactic structure; research positions at Swarthmore and the Naval Observatory; move to Wesleyan, 1966; teaching and astrometric research; the FAR: Fund for Astrophysical Research; the restoration of Clark telescopes; influential astronomers: W. Luyten, P.van de Kamp, K.A. Strand, S. McCuskey, Bart Bok; professional conditions at Wesleyan.