Where Are They Now? APS News Finds Out What Happened to the Previous Winners of the Apker Award
Editor's Note: The following information was researched and written by Richard M. Todaro. The Apker award is given by the APS in recognition of outstanding research in physics by an undergraduate.
The announcement of the 2000 Leroy Apker Award winners brings the total number of winners of this prize to 35. Since its inception in 1978, the prize has been awarded annually to undergraduate students who made "outstanding achievements in physics [and] who have demonstrated great potential for future scientific accomplishment."
So how have the Apker Award winners fared over the years?
APS News was able to contact 31 of the 33 past winners to find out the answer. Of the remaining two winners, Tak Leuk Kwok, 1984 winner, passed away in 1987 at the age of 21. APS News was unable to locate C. James Yeh, who was one of two winners in 1987.
In 1978, David Heckerman became the first winner of the Apker Award. At the time, he was an undergraduate at UCLA working in the acoustics lab under Gary Williams. Today, Heckerman, 43, is the manager of Microsoft's Machine Learning and Applied Statistics Group in Redmond, Washington. He works in the area of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, for example, incorporating AI into ever-more-sophisticated versions of Microsoft Office and Microsoft Windows and incorporating so-called "data mining" (the use of statistical tools to find patterns and relationships in large databases) into Microsoft's Enterprise software. Heckerman holds six degrees, including two bachelors of science, two masters of science, a PhD and a medical degree. Heckerman says is he motivated by an underlying desire to answer fundamental questions such as "where did the universe come from?"; "where did life come from?"; and "where did intelligence or self-awareness come from?" From a scientific perspective, he says, physics attempts to answer the first question and biology the second. The third question, he says, is addressed by fields as diverse as medicine, computer science, statistics and AI. Understood from this perspective, Heckerman's long academic journey and current research are an attempt to deal with the first and third questions. His medical interest, he says, really derives from a desire to understand consciousness and awareness and not just the "hardware of it." This is how his entrance into medical school at Stanford in 1980 led him first to get a masters degree in computer science in 1982. Subsequently, Heckerman started a medical diagnosis firm called Intellipath in 1985 and a general diagnosis firm called Knowledge Industries in 1986. Both companies used computer models that incorporated aspects of AI to produce diagnoses. Intellipath dealt with medical diagnoses, while Knowledge Industries dealt with any sort of trouble-shooting diagnoses, such as car engine problems. Heckerman earned his PhD in medical informatics from Stanford in 1990. This is the field that deals with the processes by which you manage information for the purposes of medical treatment. He finally earned his MD from Stanford in 1992. It was at that time that a would-be career as a professor in AI at UCLA was cut short by a call from Microsoft asking him to work in AI research and development. He has been there ever since, developing and incorporating AI technology, machine learning, and data mining techniques into computer software. His work at Microsoft combines - philosophically, if not in actual practice - the seemingly disparate fields he previously studied as a student. He lives near Seattle in Bellevue, Washington with his wife and children.
Louis Bloomfield won the Apker in 1979 for research he was conducting during his senior year at Amherst College on liquid helium and its behavior on surfaces of solid graphite. Bloomfield, 43, is today a professor of physics at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where he is best known for developing and teaching the hugely popular course "How Things Work." He estimates he has taught the course to some 5,000 students since its inception in 1991. The course was an inspiration for similar courses at other schools. In 1996, using his course teaching notes, Bloomfield wrote the book, How Things Work. Attention surrounding the book has resulted in a side-career as a science writer. Bloomfield has written "how things work" articles for the Washington Post and the journal Scientific American. He reviewed George Johnson's book Strange Beauty for the New York Times. He also has done many of the AAAS-produced "Why Is It?" science question-and-answer radio spots. Bloomfield is currently working on a "physics of sports" television series for the Learning Channel. He will also be participating in APS's "Dear Lou" feature, answering how and why questions of physics from the public. Bloomfield was born in Boston in October 1956, but grew up suburban Cleveland, Ohio and later in Urbana, Illinois after his father was named the dean of the medical school at UIUC in 1970. It was in high school that Bloomfield first became actively interested in the field of computer science. Like David Heckerman the year before, Bloomfield developed an interest in medicine and computer science early on. As far back as 1972, he was involved in an early form of medical diagnosis using computers. Bloomfield recalls attending a conference of the American Medical Association with his father in New York when he was 16. He operated a primitive computer, implementing the simulation that was designed by other medical doctors. The idea, he explains, was to simulate a situation in which a patient would give a list of maladies and the doctor - here the computer program - would attempt to figure out the correct diagnosis. "I had on a blue-and-white, pin-striped shirt and a badge that mistakenly read 'Dr. Louis Bloomfield.' I looked like Doogie Howser," he says, referring to the fictional television character. After graduating from Urbana high school in 1974, Bloomfield attended Amherst College in Massachusetts, where he majored in physics, earning his undergraduate degree. At this time, Bloomfield prepared to go into medical school, taking the MCAT exams and gaining admission to the Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore. However, as he explains it, he had also applied for the physics programs at Princeton, MIT and Stanford. "I hadn't planned on applying to physics at all [but] the professors at Amherst were disappointed that I wasn't going into a physics graduate program," he says. This was why he took the physics GRE in addition to the MCATS and why he applied to the three prestigious programs. In the spring of 1979, Bloomfield found himself in the unusual situation of having been accepted into medical school and all three of the physics programs to which he applied. This was also when he found out he won the Apker Award. In the end, Bloomfield decided not to go to medical school. A late winter visit to the Johns Hopkins campus helped to make up his mind- not to go to medical school. "JHU is in a grim-part of [Baltimore]. I recall seeing all the students plodding along and dealing with dissection of the anatomy the first year," he says. "[I asked myself] 'Do I really want to be cutting apart dead bodies in Baltimore?' I gave physics a second look." In the end, Bloomfield went to Stanford. He earned his PhD in 1983 with a thesis on laser spectroscopy of helium and mercury. After a post-doc at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, NJ, Bloomfield was hired as an assistant professor of physics at the University of Virginia in 1985, where he became an associate professor in 1991 and a full professor in 1996. For the first five years at UVA, Bloomfield emphasized research."I was always told that research is everything and teaching is a necessary nuisance," he says. He carried out research on clusters of atoms, particularly magnetic metals like iron, nickel and cobalt. By 1990, however, "external realities" set in. The end of the Cold War meant that physics departments everywhere had to justify their existence."We were no longer keepers of the nuclear genie," he says. The result was a much greater emphasis on teaching. It was from this that Bloomfield's concept of teaching "the physics of everyday life" was born. It was assumed that the "How Things Work" class he began teaching in the fall 1991 semester would attract 20 to 25 students. Instead, Bloomfield says, it drew 92 students, a figure that ballooned to 262 students by the next semester. The number now fluctuates between 300 and 500 students each semester, and it requires two lecture halls. Bloomfield uses a closed-circuit set up to lecture to both halls simultaneously. In putting together course material, the 1996 book How Things Work was born. It is to be reissued in December 2000 in an updated form. Through the attention garnered by the book, Bloomfield began writing for newspapers and magazines, including the Washington Post and New York Times pieces and his regular Scientific American "Working Knowledge" column. Most of these pieces focus on how-and-why things work. For instance, a June 1999 piece in the Washington Post explained the design of a bicycle in relation to the physics of motion when riding a bicycle. The New York Times article was a book review of George Johnson's Strange Beauty, a biography on the life of physicist Murray Gell-Mann and an explanation of the concept of quarks. Bloomfield has also done the "Why Is It?" radio spots produced by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The AAAS produces the 90-second spots that are sent out to radio stations around the country. Bloomfield answers questions that people send in on questions related to the physics underlying things from everyday life. His current projects include a sports physics project for the Learning Channel that will cover the physics of football. Bloomfield has also agreed to answer questions from the public for an APS web site feature. It is to be known as "Ask Lou." Bloomfield lives in Charlottesville with his wife, Karen, who is a nurse, and their two children, Elana, 13, and Aaron, 11.
Richard P. Binzel, the 1980 winner, attended undergraduate school at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn. He won the Apker for his work on photoelectric astronomy. He attended graduate school in astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin, earning his PhD in 1984. Binzel was hired at MIT in 1988 as an assistant professor of astronomy, where he became a full professor in 1994. Today, he remains at MIT, where teaches both graduates and undergraduates and carries out research sponsored by NASA and the National Science Foundation. Binzel's research is in planetary astronomy, including the study of the evolution of asteroids and the study of the Pluto-Charon system. He is married with two children and lives in Lexington, Mass.
Mark B. Ritter won the Apker in 1981 for his undergraduate work on the optical and magnetic properties of solids at both Montana State University and in a summer research program at Yale. After graduating from Montana State with a B.S. in physics, Ritter entered the PhD program in applied physics at Yale University. His doctoral thesis, completed in 1986, was in the area of low-temperature magneto-optical effects. He began his post-doctoral studies at IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, NY later that year. Today, he is manager of the center's communication design and architecture section. Ritter's research interest is now in the area of fiber optic data communication technologies and circuit design. Ritter is married with one son and lives in Danbury, Conn.
The 1982 Apker winner was Subir Sachdev. He earned his undergraduate degree in physics from MIT in 1982. He then entered the physics program at Harvard, where he earned his PhD in 1985, writing a thesis on metallic glasses and quasi-crystals. Sachdev's post-doctoral work was at Bell Labs in Murray Hills, NJ In 1987, he was hired as an assistant professor of physics at Yale University. In 1995, he became a full professor. Today, he teaches both graduates and undergraduates at Yale. Sachdev has just written a book on the theory of quantum phase transitions, and his research is on the application of related ideas to the high temperature superconductors and other condensed matter systems. On winning the Apker Award and its effect on his career, Sachdev says, "I certainly think [it] was a positive, but I don't think it was decisive." He lives in North Haven, Conn., with his wife and two daughters.
Raymond E. Goldstein won the Apker Award in 1983. Born and raised in New Jersey, Goldstein attended MIT as an undergraduate, majoring in both physics and chemistry. He won the Apker for his physics work in the areas of phase transitions and critical phenomena, specifically, describing some unusual mixing and de-mixing in certain fluids. Goldstein attended graduate school in physics at Cornell, earning his PhD in 1988. Thereafter, he worked as a post-doc at the University of Chicago's James Frank and Enrico Fermi Institutes between 1988 and 1990. He spent the next five years at Princeton as an assistant professor of physics. In 1996, Goldstein left Princeton for what he describes as a "wonderful opportunity" at the University of Arizona in Tucson. The physics department there was "rebuilding itself with large numbers of future hires and a willingness to move aggressively into areas that interested me." He was hired on as an associate professor and is also a member of the program in applied mathematics. His research is in nonlinear dynamics and pattern formation, fluid dynamics, and biological physics (i.e. the study of cell membranes). Goldstein lives in Tucson with his wife, Adriana Pesci, a physicist from Argentina who is a lecturer in the same department.
Tak Leuk Kwok, the 1984 Apker winner, passed away in 1987 at the age of 20 years old. Kwok attended Caltech as an undergraduate. His advisor, Harvey Newman, said that Kwok wanted to study high-energy physics. "He was very accomplished," Newman says. "He had an unusual breadth of scientific knowledge and good achievements in the program." Born in Hong Kong, Kwok was just a junior when he won the Apker, rather than a senior. He was also the first student from Caltech to win the award. Following graduation, Kwok attended Harvard in the physics graduate program. "He went to Harvard because he appreciated the broader academic environment," Newman says. In the summer of 1987, Kwok was at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland working on a project in high-energy physics through a research fellowship program. He was jogging when he suffered a heart attack and died. He was 20 years old.
Julia Wan-Ping Hsu won the Apker in 1985, becoming the first female winner. Born in Taiwan, Hsu came to the United States in 1980 and started school as an undergraduate at Princeton University in 1981 as a chemical engineering major. However, her research interests were in atomic physics, and her undergraduate thesis was done through the Princeton physics department. She then entered in the physics graduate program at Stanford University, earning her PhD in 1991 in superconductivity research. Following a two-year stint as a post-doc at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, NJ, Hsu spent the years 1993 through 1999 at the University of Virginia, first as an assistant professor and later as an associate professor of physics. However, in August, 1999, she decided to return to Bell Labs in New Jersey to focus on. She is married and has one child.
Terence Tai-Li Hwa won the Apker award in 1986 as an undergraduate at Stanford, where he had a triple major in physics, electrical engineering and biology. He won the Apker for his research at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) for his conceptual design of an experiment measuring the electro-weak contribution to the muon's g-factor. He went on to earn his PhD in physics in 1990 from MIT, with a joint theoretical and experimental thesis. Today, Hwa is a professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego. His research is in unconventional areas, as he shuttles between statistical physics, molecular biophysics and theoretical genomics. Of his work, he says, "I don't fit into any particular community." His efforts at creating an interdisciplinary field have been, he believes, a good success. Born in China, Hwa first came to the United States in 1979 at the age of 15. After completing his three majors from Stanford, Hwa went to MIT, studying statistical mechanics and condensed matter physics. Of the Apker award, Hwa says, "It certainly allowed me to move into whatever non-traditional field I wanted to in graduate school." At MIT, Hwa worked in both theoretical and experimental physics. He earned his PhD in 1990 working in the area of pattern formation, specifically, the non-equilibrium dynamics of complex systems. Following 3 years as a post-doc at Harvard and another year at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, Hwa worked briefly as an assistant professor of physics at SUNY-Stonybrook in 1994-95. In 1995, he was hired as an associate professor of physics at the University of California- San Diego. He became a full professor in 1999, and was a Guggenheim fellow visiting the Center for Study in Physics and Biology at the Rockefeller University that year. Today, he continues to teach and do interdisciplinary research at UC- San Diego. Hwa's recent research interest has been in molecular biophysics and genomics. He says that the concepts and methods developed in statistical physics are very useful for the study of genomics because so much of theoretical physics are concerned with detecting and describing patterns. Such pattern detection and description is the necessary first step for progress in genomic research. Advances in genomics and molecular biology, he adds, "brings new challenges and new life to statistical physics." As part of the effort to reach the larger physics community, Hwa is also organizing a half-year program at the Institute for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara, Calif., scheduled for spring 2001. The idea is to bring the many interesting, complex biological problems that have arisen through genomics research to theoretical physicists. Through such research, Hwa says theoretical physicists face nothing less than resolving the mysteries of life created by billions of years of natural evolution. "These efforts have been quite well rewarded," he says of his attempt to create a new, interdisciplinary field. "There has been a very enthusiastic response." Hwa has won several awards and grants that he believes have been essential to allowing him to carry on research in a subject matters that until recently "did not belong to any fields and had no official channel of support." Among these are a Sloan Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Burroughs-Wellcome Fund's Innovation in Genomics Award, a Beckman Foundation young investigator award, and an Office of Naval Research young investigator award. "The career path I am taking is an unusual one, and these awards, starting with the Apker Award, are crucial in helping me to overcome the many unexpected difficulties associated with pursuing my kind of path."
In 1987, there were two Apker Award winners, Chungsheng James Yeh and Gerard C.L. Wong. Of the two, APS News was unable to locate Yeh. Both men attended graduate school in physics at the University of California, Berkeley during the same time period, and it was Wong who provided this piece of information on Yeh.
Chungsheng James Yeh attended Princeton University as an undergraduate. Thereafter, he attended the University of California, Berkeley from 1987 to 1993. Records indicate he earned his masters degree in physics in 1988 and a doctorate in physics in 1993. No further information could be found.
Gerard C.L. Wong immigrated to the United States from Hong Kong when he was 10 years old. He attended Caltech as an undergraduate, earning his degree in 1987. His thesis was on properties of glassy metals. Wong attended UC-Berkeley, earning his PhD in 1994. His research was in semiconductors and interfaces. Upon finishing, he decided to enter a less "mature" field than traditional solid-state physics. "I wanted to go onto something newer where pioneering contributions are still possible," he says. As a result he switched to bio-molecular and soft matter physics, a field that studies systems like liquid crystals, polymers and membranes. Following two 2-year post-docs, one in the Netherlands and another at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Wong was hired as an assistant professor this past January at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champagne. He has a joint appointment in the department of material science and engineering and the department of physics. Wong says winning the Apker Award helped him change fields within physics. "The fact that you have a prestigious award helps you make these changes," he says. "People can see you've done well in the past." Wong lives in Urbana, Ill.
The 1988 Apker Award went to Leo Radzihovsky for his undergraduate physics thesis research on electron transport in semiconductors (the so-called polaron problem) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY He entered the physics program at Harvard on a Hertz graduate fellowship, working on statistical mechanics of membranes and vortices. He completed his PhD in 1993. Following a two-year post doc at the University of Chicago, where he worked on exotic mechanisms for high temperature superconductors, Radzihovsky was hired as an assistant professor of physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder. During the last five years there, he has been awarded the Sloan Fellowship and the Packard Fellowship, as well as the National Science Foundation CAREER Award. He is up for tenure review this fall. Radzihovsky lives in Boulder with his wife, Lucy Pao, who is a professor in the university's electrical engineering department, and their two young children, Sarah, 3, and Matthew, 1. "Physics at CU Boulder is excellent.it is on a high positive slope," he says. He adds, "I absolutely love the quality of life that Boulder offers to me and my family." On winning the Apker Award, Radzihovsky says that its main value has been giving him confidence as a physicist. This was helpful, he says, "in the face of very stiff, but friendly, competition from [the] absolutely first rate classmates that I encountered at Harvard."
There were two Apker winners in 1989, Deborah Kuchnir Fygenson and Steven H. Simon.
Deborah Kuchnir Fygenson earned her undergraduate degree in physics from MIT, despite the fact that her parents, both of whom were physicists, did not want her to be a physicist, but rather a doctor. Her research was on precision measurements of two ions inside a Penning trap. Fygenson earned her PhD from Princeton in 1995. Her career path has taken her into the field of biological physics. After a post-doc at Rockefeller University's Center for Study in Physics and Biology in New York and at the University of Southern California's Hedco Molecular Biology Labs in Los Angeles, she was hired in 1998 as an assistant professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Fygenson's research explores the physical interactions between bio-molecular materials, such as microtubules and membranes. Fygenson is also involved in educational outreach programs to her community, such as the Girls Exploring Math and Science (GEMS) program, which teaches science to middle school girls. She is also involved in the RISE program, which brings undergraduate students the biochemistry and molecular biology labs on campus. In addition, she and other faculty members are involved in Physics Circus, a program that brings members of her department to local schools to put on science demonstrations. Fygenson lives in Goleta, Calif., with her husband and 2 year old daughter, Racquel.
Steven Simon, the other 1989 winner, attended Brown University in Providence, R.I., where he earned a degree in physics and math. Simon's undergraduate senior thesis came from work he did in the chemistry department working on the mobility of free electrons in a simple fluid. He attended Harvard as a graduate student in theoretical physics, earning his PhD in 1995. His doctoral thesis was on the Quantum Hall effect. Following a two-year post-doc at MIT, Simon joined Bell Labs in Murray Hill, N.J, where he now heads the physics theory department. His research is in the area of condensed matter physics and communication, including subjects ranging from microwave propagation to high temperature superconductivity. He also oversees projects that are "of general interest to communications and biophysics," he says, including biophysics information theory. Simon lives in Hoboken, New Jersey.
The 1990 winner was Charles J. Brabec, an undergraduate student in physics at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, for his research on modeling amorphous arsenic sulfide in order to understand its photo-reactive properties. Brabec attended graduate school in physics also at NC State, earning his PhD in 1996. His doctoral thesis was on modeling carbon structures such as Buckyballs. After completing his PhD, Brabec left the field of physics entirely. "I didn't care for the academic track and I lost interest in the work," he says. "I wasn't keen on the job prospects, and I didn't want to do a post-doc. Nor do I care for publishing papers every few years to make a living." Brabec turned instead to his love of computers and made a career of it. Following four years as web master for the computer science department at NC State, Brabec recently was hired as a software developer for the university. He describes himself as a "cross between a system administrator and a programmer." Brabec lives in Raleigh with his wife and an assortment of pets.
Dean Lee and Stephen R. Quake each won the Apker in 1991.
Dean Lee attended Harvard as an undergraduate in physics. He also went to a summer program in physics at the Weizmann Institute in Israel. His undergraduate thesis was on charmed meson decay. Lee remained at Harvard for physics graduate school, earning his PhD in 1998. Today he is a post-doc in theoretical particle physics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Stephen R. Quake attended Stanford as an undergraduate in physics, working under Steve Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, in the area of biophysics. Quake worked on optical tweezers, a method to trap particles using radiation pressure, in order to manipulate DNA molecules. He then went to Merton College, Oxford University in England on a Marshall scholarship, which is awarded by the British government to American students. There he earned his PhD in theoretical physics in 1994 before returning to Stanford as a post-doc. In 1996, Quake went to Caltech as an assistant professor in applied physics. He became an associate professor in 1999 with a joint appointment in biochemistry. He continues to do research in biophysics in the area of single molecule science in an effort to use biological molecules (like DNA) as models for studying physics. "Measuring forces on single molecules provides a new set of techniques to probe what is going on with enzymes and cells," Quake says of his work. He lives in San Marino, Calif., with his wife.
The 1992 Apker winners were Christopher Barnes and Justin Mortara.
Christopher Barnes won the Apker in 1992 for his study on the classical dynamics of unstretchable strings- such as fly lines, clothes lines, hanging ropes, bullwhips, and electrical cords- when whipped about. Barnes attended Reed College in Portland, Ore., as an undergraduate majoring in physics. He then went to Cambridge University in England for a year, where he completed his Part III of the Maths Tripos, the equivalent of a Masters degree, in physics. Subsequently, Barnes went to Princeton University, where he has been ever since, first as a physics PhD student from 1993-1998, and then as a post-doc. As a graduate student, Barnes did work in theoretical and experimental physics. The theoretical work was in field theories, such as texture (modeling the dynamics of the early universe) and Skyrmions (modeling nucleons). The latter included work on the TopHat, balloon-borne experiment designed to measure non-uniformities in cosmic microwave background radiation. Barnes current post-doc work is on the MAP satellite project, also designed to measure cosmic background radiation. Barnes lives in Princeton, NJ, with his wife and stepdaughter. He likes to write and has nearly completed work on a novel that he describes as a mixture of fantasy and science fiction.
Justin Mortara is the other 1992 Apker winner. Although Mortara entered the University of Chicago with the intention of being an archeologist, he gravitated towards the physics program. He won the Apker for work he did under Stuart Freedman on the search for a particular type of heavy neutrino (which turned out not to exist, he says). Mortara followed Freedman to UC- Berkeley, entering the physics graduate program in 1992 and earning his PhD in 1999. His doctoral thesis was on the search for violation of the time reversal invariance property of beta decay in Cobalt-56 atoms. After a brief stint at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Mortara joined his father's medical device company. David Mortara, who also holds a PhD in physics, in 1982 founded and is still today the president of Mortara Instrument Company. Justin worked for nearly a year at the company's office in Bologna, Italy, where he learned to speak Italian. Today, Mortara is the company's vice president of business development for North America in its Milwaukee, Wis., headquarters. Mortara left the field of physics because he feels he can make a positive impact on the world through the medical device industry. "I want to continue to work in [the medical device] industry and to see the adoption of new technologies in health care to improve the state of people everywhere," he says. Although he left the field of physics, Mortara says, "I found my training in physics to be immensely rewarding, especially under the guidance of Stuart Freedman. Today, I find myself using many of the skills he imparted to me, both in terms of problem solving and organizational dynamics, in my daily business life." Mortara lives in Milwaukee, Wis.
The 1993 Apker winner was David Kaiser for his undergraduate work at Dartmouth College. Kaiser's senior thesis consisted of two studies, one in the area of particle physics and the other in the area of inflationary cosmology. Kaiser attended graduate school in physics at Harvard, where he earned the equivalent of two PhD's (although Harvard only awards one per person). The first was in physics, which he finished in1997, and the second was in the history of science, which he finished this year. Kaiser's physics thesis dealt with aspects of inflation and the expansion of the Universe. His advisor was Alan Guth, one of the founders of inflationary cosmology theory. Kaiser's second thesis dealt with the history of American physics following World War II and throughout the Cold War. Kaiser has just begun teaching a course on the history of science as an assistant professor in MIT's Science, Technology and Society (STS) Program. He is also a lecturer in MIT's physics department. Kaiser says that while he loves the physics research he does, his area "is a tiny, well-defined subspecialty, which can often seem cut off from other areas of physics. By contrast, his research on the history of American physics since World War II has required him to learn about a vast range of topics from foreign policy to culture and sociology to even art history. Above all else, Kaiser says that he wants to help bridge the divide between the humanities and the hard sciences, particularly physics. "A huge divide exists between humanities and science students even at the undergraduate level at many schools," he says. "I want to build a bridge because the world isn't divided into such categories." Such categories, he adds, are "important, but ultimately arbitrary disciplinary divides." Kaiser lives in Wellesley, Mass., with his wife, Prof. Tracy Gleason.
There were three Apker winners in 1994. Arthur Chu, Steven S. Gubser, and Brandon C. Collings shared the award in 1994.
Arthur Chu attended Harvard University as an undergraduate, earning his degree in 1994. His thesis was on laser manipulation of electrically neutral atoms. Chu attended graduate school until 1996, working under M. Prentiss, earning his masters degree in physics. Thereafter, Chu left the field of physics altogether. He believes it isn't very practical to get a job in physics if you have a Masters degree. "Either you stop as an undergraduate or get a PhD [in physics]," he says. In 1996, Chu got a job in New York on Wall Street, working for a major investment brokerage house. He describes himself as a research analyst for the bond market. His job entails looking at large amounts of data to find strategies and make recommendations for institutional investors trading in the bond markets. Although he is no longer in the field of physics, Chu says some of the research concepts he learned as a physics researcher are applicable in what he does today. "You can't solve [problems] exactly, just approximately," he says. Chu lives in New York City with his wife.
Steven S. Gubser attended Princeton University as an undergraduate in physics, focusing on string theory and two-dimensional quantum gravity. Following a year at Cambridge University in England in a masters program, he returned to Princeton as a graduate student, continuing his research under Igor Klebanov. Gubser earned his PhD in 1998 for work on the description of black holes and the relation of string theory to gauge theory. Following a post-doc position at Harvard, he returned to Princeton as an assistant professor. Recently, he accepted a tenured position at Caltech and will be moving from Princeton, NJ to Pasadena, Calif., in a few months. Gubser likes to climbs moutains as a hobby.
Brandon C. Collings attended Hamilton College in Clinton, N. Y., where he had a double major in physics and mathematics. His senior research thesis was on laser spectroscopy of lanthanum tri-fluoride-based crystals, identifying physical mechanisms that occurred within the crystal solid. Collings attended Princeton University as a graduate student in electrical engineering, earning his PhD in 1999. His doctoral thesis was on passively mode-locked short-pulsed lasers. He now works at Bell Labs in Holmdel, N.J, in the area of fiber optics. He is currently on a research team that last November set a world's record in number of distinct wavelength communications channels carried by a single optical fiber. The team successfully transmitted data on each of 1,022 distinct wavelengths of light. According to a Bell Labs press release, each wavelength channel carries 37 million (mega) bits of information per second and has a total system capacity of over 37 billion (giga) bits of information per second. Collings plans to stay in the fiber optics industry for the time being.
Since 1995, the Apker Award has been handed out to one or more undergraduate students attending a "non-PhD institution" and one or more undergraduate students attending a "PhD institution." The first refers to an institution that does not have a PhD-level program and the second refers to an institution that does.
In 1995, the non-PhD institution winner was Benjamin F. Williams for his research at Middlebury College on identifying and studying supernova remnants in the M-31 Galaxy. After working as a telescope operator at the Kitt Peak observatory for a year and a half, in 1997, Williams entered the astronomy graduate program at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he is still working on his PhD in astronomy. He lives in the Seattle area with his wife, Julie.
The 1995 PhD institution winner was Frederick B. Mancoff for his research at Stanford University on magneto-transport of a two-dimensional electron gas system under a spatially random magnetic field. He continued at Stanford as a graduate student in the department of materials science and engineering, where he finished his PhD in August. Mancoff has just begun a post-doc position at the National Institute of Standards and Technologies in Boulder, Colorado.
The 1996 non-PhD institution winner was Benjamin S. Williams for his research at Haverford College in Haverford, Penn., on a fluid dynamical experiment that measured the mixing of a dye in two-dimensional turbulence. He is currently pursuing his PhD at MIT in the department of electrical engineering, where he is working on the development of a new laser that operates in the far infrared.
The 1996 PhD institution winner was Christopher Schaffer for his undergraduate thesis work at the University of Florida, Gainsville on the temporal shaping of femtosecond laser pulses and the construction of femtosecond laser amplifiers. He is currently working on his PhD in physics at Harvard in femtosecond laser research.
The 1997 non-PhD institution winner was Cameron Geddes for his undergraduate work in plasma physics on the Swarthmore Spheromak Experiment at Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Penn. He is currently a physics graduate student at UC-Berkeley, and he works as a plasma physicist in the L'Oasis group at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Geddes is an avid hockey and rugby player. He lives in Oakland, Calif.
The 1997 PhD institution winner was Anna Lopatnikova for her undergraduate work at MIT using renormalization group theory to explain the observed phase-diagrams of Helium-3 and Helium-4 super fluid mixtures immersed in aerogel. She is working toward her PhD in physics at Harvard in the area of condensed matter theory. Lopatnikova has also been at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, NJ for four summers in a row in the Graduate Research Program for Women.
The 1998 non-PhD institution winner was Gwendolyn Rae Bell for her undergraduate work at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, Calif., estimating the mass of the Milky Way galaxy by calculating the orbits of nearby satellite galaxies (known as dwarf spheroidal galaxies). Her findings indicated that fully 90 percent of the mass of the Milky Way galaxy is composed of mysterious "dark matter." Bell received her Masters degree in astronomy from Caltech. She now works for the Technology Research Group at SAIC. She lives in San Diego, Calif.
The 1998 PhD institution winner was Brian R. D'Urso for his undergraduate research at Caltech on numerical modeling and fabrication of lasers with photonic crystal mirrors. He is currently working toward his PhD in physics at Harvard. D'Urso lives in Arlington, Mass.
The 1999 non-PhD institution winner was Brian Gerke for his undergraduate theoretical physics work at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., on light-induced shape change reactions in conjugated polyene molecules. He is currently working on his Masters degree in physics at Cambridge University in England, where he is studying under a two-year fellowship. Gerke plans to begin a PhD program in the fall of 2001.
The 1999 PhD institution winner was Govind Krishnaswami for his undergraduate research at the University of Rochester on modeling the interaction of quarks for the structure of the proton. He is currently working on his PhD, also at the University of Rochester, continuing his research in particle physics.
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