Superconducting Super Collider Laboratory

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Allen Odian, Permanent Staff Physicist Emeritus at SLAC. Odian discusses his current work on the EXO 200 double beta decay search for xenon, and he recounts his Armenian heritage, his upbringing in Boston, and his early realization that he wanted to be a physicist. He describes his undergraduate work at MIT, and he explains his decision to remain there for graduate school to work at the synchrotron laboratory run by Louis Osborne. Odian discusses his thesis research on proton pairs under the direction of Al Wattenberg, and he describes his postdoctoral work in pulsed electronics at the University of Illinois. He explains his decision to pursue a Fulbright scholarship to work on the 1 GeV accelerator at Frascati, Italy, before returning to take a job at SLAC just as the lab was coming together. Odian conveys the frenetic pace of building and research during SLAC’s early years, and he describes Shelly Glashow’s direction to look for charmed mesons. He discusses his work on the streamer chamber, and he describes the interplay of theory and experiment for SPEAR. Odian describes his work for the SLC positron source and his advocacy for a streamer chamber at the SSC. He explains the significance of the Askaryen effect, his involvement in the development of the Fermi telescope and his research on the inverted polarized electron gun. Odian discusses the SLC’s value for millicharged particle research, he explains the origins of EXO 200 and his work on the heavy photon search at JLAB. At the end of the interview, Odian reflects on how his experimental work has provided guidance to theorists, he conveys the centrality of Panofsky’s vision and leadership at the center of SLAC’s success, and he explains his ongoing curiosity about the possible existence of Majorana neutrinos.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Teleconference
Abstract

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.