Student Travel Awards
Two graduate students received awards at the March meeting and one undergraduate student received an award at the April meeting.
The two awardees at the March meeting were Cesar Rodriguez-Rosario and Kavan Modi, both from the University of Texas at Austin, who were about to defend their theses and presented posters both in the FHP section and general theory sections. The awards, checks and brief biographies of the honored physicists, were presented at the beginning of the FHP contributed paper session which took place on Wednesday, March 12 at 2:30PM.
Cesar Rodrigues-Rosario was born in Puerto Rico where he received his Bachelor’s degree. His thesis research is on theoretical quantum mechanics, focusing on quantum information, open quantum systems and decoherence. His presentation entitled “The Increasingly Disordered History of Entropy”, tried to trace the debate about entropy starting with Lucrecius mechanics to the modern Information Theory, with many illustrious contributors to the debate such as Laplace, Maxwell, Bennett, Boltzmann, Lindblad, Kossakowski, von Neumann, Szilard, Shannon, Carnot, Clausius and Prigogine. The award was presented to honor Gregor Wentzel (1898-1978) who received his doctorate in 1921 at the University of Munich as a student of A. Sommerfeld. In1926, Wentzel, Hendrik Kramers, and Léon Brillouin, independently developed what became known as the Wentzel-Kramers-Brillouin approximation, also known as the BWK method, classical approach, and phase integral method (Wikipedia). In 1948, Wentzel took a professorship at the University of Chicago, from which he retired after a distinguished Career in physics.
Kavan Modi was born in India but came to the United States at the age of 13 where most of his education took place. He attended Embry-Riddle College and participated in programs of the Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, FL in the fall of 1997 where he studied space systems engineering and summer internships at the Kennedy space center and Fermi National Lab. His thesis research concerns studies of unstable quantum systems, open quantum systems, and quantum optics. His presentation, “The Stolen Brain of Einstein” attempts to describe the long journey this brain has taken in last fifty two years. The brain was removed by Harvey who, in actuality, did not have the permission to remove the brain. Only later Harvey convinced Einstein's son, Hans Albert Einstein, that this was for a good purpose. The award was presented in honor of Rolfe Eldridge Glover III, (1924-2004), Professor at the University of Maryland, who was one of the early researchers to experimentally discovered evidence for the energy gap in superconductivity which was one of the fundamental ideas in the formulation of the Bardeen-Cooper Schrieffer theory of superconductivity.
At the April meeting, Samuel Fletcher, a Princeton undergraduate in physics, was the Maria Goepper Mayer student, sponsored by Donat G. Wentzel, in honor of his late mother-in-law. Fletcher spoke on "The Manhattan Project and its Effects on American Women Scientists." He displayed extraordinary grace under pressure! His planned talk had somehow disppeared in the Chicago airport. He had reconstituted it the night before the Manhattan session as a power-point presentation. And the projector failed completely. It later transpired that some critical component had not been plugged in. (Previous speakers in thesession had used overheads.) But the speaker carried on, with fewer exact numbers and lists of names than he had planned, but with some extraordinarily interesting details.Fletcher cited the 1999 book by Ruth Howes and Caroline Herzenberg (who was at the meeting) on the women of "Manhattan" and its review by Margaret Rossiter. Of about 130,000 people involved, about 300 were women at Los Alamos and another 100 or so women at Hanford. There were also at least a few women working under the bleachers in Chicago (I knew one of them). To a considerable extent, all were employed, full or part time, because of the labor shortage imposed by wartime conditions, though some of the women (Leona Marshall, LIbby is the one you will most probably have heard of) were every bit as qualified as many of the men. They were, of course, paid less (though Dorrit Hoffleit, working at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in the same timeframe, received a gender-equal salary, once the authorities accepted that she had a Harvard PhD).
Many of the technically trained, though non-PhD, women worked as "computers," that is, processors of numerical data in accordance with algorithms laid down by others. The extent to which various women were provided with household help, including child care, displayed an ambiguous (though not necessarily unfair) attitude toward their multi-tasking, highest priority going to those who worked full time and had children. (The Los Alamos birthrate was remarkably high, presumably for other reasons.)
In gross generalization of what the speaker said, one comes to a realization that participation in the Manhattan project was not the career-booster for women that it was for many of the men, who returned to civilian life with job offers at multiple prestigious institutions.
We are particularly pleased to note that Mr. Fletcher plans graduate work in philosophy of science at UC Irvine next year.
Please contact Secretary-Treasurer, Thomas Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to honor someone this way in 2009, and urge relevant students to apply for support next year as well.