Interview with Steven Kivelson, Prabhu Goel Family Professor of Physics at Stanford University. Kivelson recounts his childhood in Los Angeles as the son of academic scientists, and he describes his transition from career ambitions in the law toward physics. He discusses his undergraduate experience at Harvard, and he describes his lack of appreciation of the stature of many of the physics professors, such as his advisor Paul Martin, whom he knew first as a friend of his parents. Kivelson explains his decision to continue at Harvard for his graduate degree, and he discusses how he developed his interest in amorphous semiconductors under the guidance of Dan Gellat. He recounts his postdoctoral work at UC Santa Barbara, where he worked with Bob Schrieffer on the physics of conducting polymers. Kivelson discusses his first faculty position at Stony Brook, and he discusses the excellent group of graduate students he advised during his tenure there. He discusses some of the broader research questions in condensed matter of the time, including the significance of macroscopic quantum tunneling, invented by Tony Leggett. Kivelson explains his reasons for moving to UCLA, and he discusses Ray Orbach’s efforts to make recruitment a priority there. He discusses his long interest in fractionalization with regard to conducting polymers to be generalized to spin liquids, and his move to Stanford, which attracted him in part because of the condensed matter experimental group. At the end of the interview, Kivelson discusses his current research interests in exploring well-controlled solutions of paradigmatic models of strongly correlated electron systems, and he explains why the concept of a grand unified theory of physics is not a scientific but rather a religious proposition.
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.
In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Michael Anastasio, Director Emeritus of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Anastasio recounts his childhood in suburban Washington DC and he describes his early intellectual pursuits in math and science. He discusses his undergraduate experience at Johns Hopkins, where his original plan was to learn enough physics to teach it at the college level. He explains his decision to pursue a graduate degree at Stony Brook, where he worked under the direction of Tom Kuo in the nuclear theory group on the effective interaction in many body systems. Anastasio describes his postdoctoral research in Europe, where he worked on the meson exchange theory for the nuclear force. He discusses his year at Brooklyn College, and he describes that circumstances leading to his work at Livermore Lab. Anastasio recounts his work on nuclear weapons stockpile issues in the “B Division,” and how Cold War security policy affected the laboratory’s mission and focus. He explains his increasing responsibilities as a division leader and then associate director at Livermore, and he discusses his work as scientific advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Energy for Defense Programs. Anastasio explains the impact of September 11 at Livermore, and he describes his tenure as director, where he was focused on maintaining the long-term viability of the lab. He describes the circumstances surrounding his decision to become director of Los Alamos and he reflects on the differences and similarities of the challenges of this new position. At the end of the interview, Anastasio describes the ongoing relevance of the research at Los Alamos in both nuclear weapons and basic science.
In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Chris Quigg, Distinguished Scientist Emeritus at Fermi National Accelerator Lab. He discusses his current book project Grace in All Simplicity with his colleague Bob Cahn, and he recounts his upbringing in Pennsylvania and his early interests in science. He describes his undergraduate experience at Yale where he worked with Itzhak Kelson, and his fascination with accelerator physics. Quigg discusses his decision to attend Berkeley for his graduate work and his formative summer work at Livermore. He describes the influence of J.D. Jackson’s course on the dynamics of strong interactions and how he developed his research on rho meson resonances under Jackson’s direction. Quigg discusses his postdoctoral and then faculty position at Stony Brook, and the dual attractions of Brookhaven Lab and the Institute for Theoretical Physics under the leadership of C.N. Yang. He describes his work on two-Reggeon exchange reactions and his interest in the deep inelastic scattering results coming out of SLAC at this time. Quigg discusses the circumstances leading to him joining Fermilab, and he discusses the import of research on weak neutral current, the W and Z bosons, and the Glashow-Weinberg-Salam theory. He describes the fundamental importance of Lederman’s discovery of the Upsilon, and he discusses his contributions to the research going on at CERN in the 1970s. Quigg recounts his involvement in planning the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) and he describes his work thereafter at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (LBL). Toward the end of the interview, Quigg shares his ideas on the current state of high energy physics and the ongoing prospects for fundamental discoveries.
In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Alexander Chao, Professor of Physics and a specialist in accelerator physics at SLAC. Chao recounts his childhood in Taiwan, right after the civil war of 1949, and he describes his early difficulties in school before discovering his abilities in math and physics. He describes his undergraduate work at Tsinghua University in Taipei where he developed his early skills in theoretical accelerator physics. Chao describes his yearlong obligatory military service after graduating, and he explains his decision to pursue a graduate degree at Stony Brook, where he was attracted by the work of Chen-Ning Yang and with whom he worked on elementary particle physics. Chao discusses his work at Brookhaven Lab, and he conveys Yang’s advice to pursue a career in accelerator physics. He describes the opportunity that launched his career at SLAC, where Burt Richter hired him right before the “November Revolution” of 1974. Chao discusses his work over the decades at SLAC, including his role as a theorist in the high energy experimental group, his work as group leader of the beam dynamics group, and his deep involvement in the design of the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC). He offers his perspective on the many reasons why the SSC was cancelled, and he expresses his relief that he had a job waiting for him back at SLAC. Chao reflects on how the research culture at SLAC has changed over the years, and at the end of the interview, he discusses his current interest in Steady State Micro Bunching, which has the potential to radiate very high power for diverse applications.