Physics & Astronomy
The Beginning: 1892
From the very beginning, the school that has grown to be the University of New Mexico has had the goal of providing its students with worthwhile training in physics. The catalog of 1892 states:
A well-fitted laboratory will be arranged for the classes in Physics and Chemistry where students will be required to do practical work.
Setting up: 1893
The next year, the catalog of 1893 has the following statement under "Physical and Chemical Laboratories":
Both of these laboratories will be fitted up this coming year, and the students will be given the opportunity of doing practical work in both Physics and Chemistry. It is now expected that over $1000 will be expended for apparatus this coming year, and the latest and best appliances will be added from time to time as funds are provided.
During these early years, it was possible to obtain the BS degree by having a concentration of mathematics and chemistry and with physics being taken in the senior year.
There was considerable turnover in the professorial staff in the beginning and, on occasion, even later. In 1892 Marshall R. Gaines is listed as Professor of Latin, Greek, and Natural Sciences. In 1894 his title was changed to Professor of Latin, Greek and Natural History, while William A. Zimmer came in as Professor of Chemistry, Physics, Geology and Botany and was also in charge of the School of Pharmacy. In 1895 Professor Zimmer became Professor of Natural History and remained in charge of the School of Pharmacy. From 1896 through September 1898, Randolph W. Tinsley was Professor of Natural Science, and the original "Elementary course in Physics for beginners" was upgraded to include both the junior and senior years with some "advanced" work being included in the senior year.
The work done in Physics has been of an elementary nature, consisting of recitations and experiments. Most of the experiments were shown from the desk, as the amount of apparatus on hand at present will not permit laboratory work in this branch. No one having applied for advanced work, there have been no advanced classes this year. About $200 worth of physical apparatus has been added this year. -- UNM Yearbook Mirage, 1898
Edward Childs: 1898 - 1902
From September 1898 through 1902, Edward P. Childs expanded the scope of the physics offerings while serving under a variety of titles: Director, then Dean of the College of Science, Literature and Arts, Professor of Physics and Mathematics, Director of the Laboratories of Chemistry and Physics, and Professor of Mathematics. By 1900 the offerings in physics had grown to the point that freshmen could take General Physics, including laboratory work, and then go on to courses in Electricity and Magnetism, Heat and Light, Mathematical Electricity and Magnetism, Analytical Mechanics, and Advanced Laboratory.
Physics Lab 1898
Hodgin Hall: 1892-1900
Until 1900 the laboratories were held in the basement of the only building on campus, which was later to be named Hodgin Hall. In the basement of Hodgin Hall, then, along with the heating and ventilating apparatus, there were at first two, then four large rooms that were used for the laboratories. The chemistry laboratory was originally to be on the top (third) floor apparently with the hope that the fumes would be less objectionable from that location; but then later it was down in the basement together with the physics laboratory. In 1898 the concern of the physics professor for his students is apparent from the statement in the catalog: "the Laboratory is open at all times to students taking the course."
Hadley Hall: 1900
In 1899-1900 thanks to the generous personal gift of Mrs. Walter C. Hadley, the original Hadley Hall was constructed at a cost of over $20,000 to the east of Hodgin Hall. The new building is described as "a commodious laboratory for climatological study" and was also used to house "the several laboratories." In 1901-02, Professor Childs was in charge of physics and meteorology in the Hadley Climatological Laboratory, which had as its purpose the study of "the influence of the climate of arid and plateau regions of the United States on disease."
Carl E. Magnussen, Professor of Physics and Mathematics for 1902-03, was succeeded by Martin F. Angell, who was in charge of physics until 1913 except for the year 1904-05 when he returned to the University of Wisconsin for his MS degree. Walter E. Rowe took his place during that year. Professor Angell was originally Professor of Physics and Mathematics, but in 1908 that was changed to Professor of Physics and Electrical Engineering. Then in 1909 he became Dean of the College of Science and Engineering. These changes in title not only imply changes in orientation and emphasis but also reflect changes in academic organization. In 1908-09 physics was in the College of Letters and Science, which offered "courses leading to the degree of AB"; but then in 1909-10, that college became the College of Letters and Arts. Physics consequently became part of the School of Science within the College of Science and Engineering, which at that time offered the degrees of BA, MA, or EE, CE, or ME. During Professor Angell's tenure, the offerings of the physics department increased from seven courses to 18, including two entitled "thesis work."
Engineering Hall: 1910-1922
From the completion of Hadley Hall in 1900, the physics department was comfortably situated on the second floor of that building. In the catalog of 1903-04, however, there is the comment: "At present there is an urgent need for funds for carrying out effectively work in this line (i.e., the influence of New Mexico's arid climate on disease) and it is hoped that adequate resources may be provided at an early date." But then on May 23, 1910, disaster struck. Hadley Hall was completely destroyed by fire, and for the moment the College of Science and Engineering was effectively wiped out. Temporary quarters were found, however, in the Gymnasium and in the Administration Building (Hodgin Hall); and construction was started at once on a new science building. This was a one-story, largely concrete structure that housed the physical laboratories as well as the offices for the science departments. This building was called the Engineering Hall (or Building) until 1922, when it was renamed Science Hall as a result of the "New Engineering Building" being built to the west. Whatever the name, however, this was the home of the physics department until 1935.
In 1912-13 the physics department was back in the College of Letters and Science. In 1913-14 physics was the charge of Vernon A. Suydam, who was Professor of Physics and Electrical Engineering as well as Director of the School of Applied Science. For the period 1914-17, Jesse L. Brenneman took over as Associate Professor, then Professor of Physics and Electrical Engineering. In 1916 the physics laboratories in the Engineering Hall were described as being particularly effective in illustrating electricity and magnetism since "Twenty-five electrical meters, eight galvanometers, five resistance boxes in addition to the engineering rheostats give good facilities for experimentation." In 1916-17 the physics department was part of the College of Arts, Philosophy and Science. Up to this time the department had offered a minor, but not a major in physics.
From 1917 to 1920 there were rapid turnovers in the physics department, with Ward L. Ray there for 1917-18, Lawrence McCarty together with Raymond Duhadway for 1918-19, and then George H. Bardsley for 1919-20. Despite these short tenures, progress was made because by 1918 it was possible to obtain a major or a minor in physics with a degree of BA or BS depending on the program taken. By this time there were 19 courses offered by the department including nine for advanced undergraduate or graduate students. In 1919 the physics department was part of the College of Arts and Sciences and was planning on equipping laboratories for advanced work in heat, light, and electricity and magnetism "as funds become available."
The Graduate School of the university was started in 1918. Even though the various professors of physics were members of the graduate faculty and certain of the more advanced physics courses were available for graduate credit, there was no graduate degree offered in physics until some time later.
Robert Rockwood: 1920-1933
In 1920 Robert S. Rockwood took over the physics department and remained in charge until his death in the spring of 1933. In 1920 there were 14 course offerings in physics, including "Household Physics," which survived for many years. There were also advanced laboratories in heat, light, and electricity and magnetism as had been hoped earlier. In 1926 "Atomic structure" was added to the curriculum, and in 1927 "Einstein's theory of relativity" was added for graduate credit.
Lecture Hall: 1927
Science and Lecture Hall, 1928-1984
In 1927 the new Lecture Hall, which was eventually demolished in 1985, was under construction. This proved to be an excellent facility both because of its size (about 250 students) and because of its remarkably good acoustics. Who was to have primary use of this hall developed into a contentious point between the physics department and such disparate departments as music (they needed the front area cleared for band and orchestra rehearsals and also did not want chairs with writing arms because chorus members would slouch on them) and anthropology (because of the size of their beginning classes).
Science and Lecture Hall, interior
Members of the physics department have always believed in the importance of lecture demonstrations, particularly in the beginning classes. The theoretical treatment that many students meet for the first time is so abstract that it is important to maintain some connection with the ordinary world. There were two small rooms on either side of the front of the lecture hall in which equipment could be stored and brought out on practically an instant's notice for use in the hall; whereas, it would have been quite impractical to set up demonstrations in one of the ordinary lecture rooms on campus. At one time it seemed that the completion in 1972 of the new physics lecture and laboratory building, Regener Hall, would resolve the scheduling difficulty; but the fact that the new lecture hall with its capacity for 300 students is practically unique on campus has led to continuing controversy over its use also.
Even though Professor Rockwood had additional help in teaching the physics courses from 1927, the biennial report of 1929-31 has this statement with regard to the physics department: "This department is in serious need of additional personnel, housing and equipment. It cannot at present function in accordance with the importance of physics in modern life." There must also have been a problem in filling the course on Einstein's theory of relativity because in 1929 this course was dropped from the catalog. There was, however, a favorable step taken in 1931 when the Graduate School announced that the MA degree was to be offered with a major or minor in physics; unhappily, it was to be ten years before the first graduate degree was given in physics.
E.J. Workman: 1933-1946
Upon the death of Professor Rockwood, E.J. Workman came in as Associate Professor of Physics, later becoming Professor and Head of the Department of Physics until 1946. Physics continued as a two-man department with S. B. Lippincott for 1930-34, Francis F. Coleman for 1934-36, and Robert E. Holzer for 1935-36 until finally in the 1940s real growth began for the department. In 1941 both Gene Pelsor and Herschel Snodgrass joined the department, and then in 1942 John Breiland joined to give a staff of five.
Scholes Hall: 1935
Scholes Hall, 1960s
The circumstances of the physics department improved greatly in 1935 as a result of the construction of the new Administration Building (now Scholes Hall) with the help of a loan and grant of $250,000 from the Works Progress Administration. The physics department was allotted the whole east half of the second floor of the new building. This amounted to four large laboratory rooms, a large and a small lecture room (35 and 20 students), four offices, one of which was large enough to serve also as a research laboratory, and a reasonably well equipped shop with ample storage space. Even though some of the larger machines in the shop could not be used while classes in anthropology were meeting in a classroom on the first floor beneath the shop, the availability of machining facilities in the department greatly enhanced the possibilities for research. At this time the physics department offered ten lower-division, ten upper-division and two graduate (Problems, Thesis) courses and now could also offer the MS degree.
The research interests of the department at this time were in meteorology. In 1937 the department added a minor study in meteorology with a number of new courses in atmospheric physics, and in 1940 the Graduate School announced that a new MS in physics with a major in meteorology would be added. This came about because of research work that was already underway investigating thunderstorms and associated meteorological phenomena of particular interest to aeronautics. This work was sponsored by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and by the Weather Bureau. It was as a result of this work that the department awarded its first MS degree in 1941 to Herschel Roy Snodgrass, whose thesis was "A generating voltmeter of wide sensitivity range for measuring atmospheric potential gradient."
World War II
With the coming of World War II, unexpected demands were placed on the small physics department. At the request of the Army Air Forces, a pre-meteorological program under R. E. Holzer was designed to fill an urgent need for trained weather observers and forecasters for military operations. From March 16, 1943, to September 1943, the department taught over 400 students in pre-meteorology, Navy, and civilian classifications.
When political and military events in Europe heated up, the War Department began to build installations immediately east of the city's new airport. The importance of military aviation at Kirtland Field played a part in constructing an addition to the Engineering Building designed especially for the study of aeronautical engineering and pilot training. The university's Physics Department and meteorology program were also involved in the training of many Army Air Corps officers.
Of particular interest was the participation of UNM Physics professor Everly John "Jack" Workman
in the war effort. The National Defense Research Committee, a group created to support scientific research on war-related projects, selected Workman and his staff to team with researchers from Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University, Princeton, and the University of Michigan to develop and test a variable timing fuze, otherwise known as a proximity fuze. This top-secret project (not made public until September 1945) was, by the end of the war, a key component in stopping the lethal Nazi V-1 rocket attacks on Britain.
Workman was instrumental in acquiring more than 30,000 acres south of airport and along the foothills of the Manzano Mountains to create the New Mexico Proving Ground. The land, comprised of former livestock ranches and state land held in trust for the university, became home to testing facilities that played a major role in the development of this critical defensive weapon.
From "The University of New Mexico: A Historical Narrative", by William A. Dodge, PhD. August 2006
On September 29, 1944, a certificate "in recognition of meritorious service rendered the Army Air Forces Training Command during World War II" bearing the signatures of Maj. Gen. J. E. Chaney, commanding general of the Air Forces, and Lt. Gen. B. K. Yount, commanding general of the Training Command at Ft. Worth, Texas, was awarded the university. Judge Sam G. Bratton of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, then president of the university's board of regents, presided over the special ceremony, while James P. Zimmerman, then president of the university, accepted the certificate.
Victor Regener: 1946
In 1945-46 a disagreement over the proper role of sponsored research on campus led to E. J. Workman's leaving the university and going to the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, where he became the president. There was much reorganization of the department when Victor Regener came in 1946 with new courses such as "Experimental research methods" and "Introduction to contemporary physics" being added. Research contracts were obtained from the United States Air Forces to support research in atmospheric physics and from the Research Corporation of New York for cosmic ray research. It is particularly worth noticing that none of the work proposed was confidential; and therefore, it would all contribute toward the graduate research program of the department. Through the years the philosophy of the department has been that the function of a university is to discover and disseminate knowledge. This same principle has been followed in later cooperative arrangements with Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory (now Los Alamos National Laboratory), the Sandia Corporation (now Sandia National Laboratories) and Kirtland Air Force Base. Theses and dissertations submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for higher degrees have always been unclassified even though the research itself may have been carried out in classified areas.
L-R: Faculty, Gerald Bowen, Raymond Grenchik, John Breiland, Department Head Victor Regener, Norris Nereson, Frederick Martens, Richard Runge, from the 1947 UNM Mirage
Victor Regener was skillful in taking advantage of the support money that was available from governmental agencies and other sources just after World War II and later. The active research programs he instituted and encouraged in others served to attract able graduate students and additional faculty who would in turn extend the research opportunities of the department by finding further funding. A corollary of all this was the expansion and upgrading of the course offerings of the department.
Capilla Peak Observatory: 1947-1951
Capilla Peak Observatory
Starting with overnight camping trips in 1947 and continuing with picnics in 1950-51, the faculty, staff and students gradually built a high altitude observatory on Capilla Peak at 9,200 ft. in the Manzano Mountains. This observatory has had continuous use for experiments in cosmic rays, zodiacal light, airglow, pulsars, binary star systems, and extragalactic imaging.
First PhD: 1950
In July of 1950, David Pomeroy received the first PhD degree given by the department. His dissertation was entitled "Investigation of Hard Showers in Cosmic Radiation."
In late 1951 at the request of the Air Force Institute of Technology, the department offered a new meteorological program directed by John Breiland. This involved an accelerated course in a number of meteorological subjects for 119 cadets. The success of this program led to a further program at a more advanced level for 58 Air Force Reserve officers. Both of these programs involved setting up a complete weather station for making observations as well as extensive facilities for plotting and analyzing weather maps.
Also in 1951, at the request of the Sandia Corporation and Kirtland Air Force Base, the department rearranged its class schedule so that courses required for the various degrees were offered early in the morning or late in the afternoon into the evening. This proved to be unsatisfactory both to the faculty and to the regular students because of the extraordinarily long day that resulted for many of them. Eventually a compromise was reached in which Sandia and Kirtland personnel were allowed greater freedom in taking classes during the day. After all, it was indisputable that the presence of the university and the possibility of obtaining a degree in physics and other fields was an important inducement in recruitment of new employees.
1919 Lomas: 1952
A new physics building of 10,000 square feet was completed in the summer of 1952 at the location north of Lomas Boulevard at an estimated cost of $170,000. This location was selected even though it was rather far from the main campus activities because it provided ease of access and especially because it allowed convenient launching of balloon flights which were involved in the study of atmospheric ozone. The new building was used only for advanced courses and upper division laboratories as well as for graduate research.
Victor Regener, far left, preparing a balloon for atmospheric data collection
The lower division laboratories remained in the administration building, while all lower division courses were still taught in Lecture Hall because of its location near the engineering buildings. Thus the dispersed teaching functions of the department provided the faculty with an opportunity for gentle exercise that continues to this day.
Los Alamos Collaboration: 1952
An important innovation in 1952 was the beginning of the MS program in cooperation with Los Alamos. This arrangement enabled students to use the facilities at Los Alamos while requiring originally that 15 units of courses be taken on campus. This small beginning was expanded and altered over the years to lead to full scale graduate programs not only at Los Alamos but also at Holloman Air Force Base starting in 1955. Faculty members taught two to three courses each semester at Los Alamos starting in 1957 and one to two courses at Holloman starting in 1958. The program at Holloman was not so rewarding, however, as the one at Los Alamos. As of 1984 the program at Los Alamos has resulted in 17 PhD degrees being awarded to students from there. Roy Thomas contributed to the success of the Los Alamos program as well as other educational programs at Kirtland and Sandia by teaching a large number of advanced and specialized courses.
National American Physical Society Meeting, 1953
The physics department was host for the western national meeting of the American Physical Society on September 2 to 5 in 1953. This proved to be one of the largest meetings held in the western United States up to that time. Participants said that they had come not only because of the contents of the meeting but also because of the proximity of Los Alamos and the Sandia Laboratories and even more because of the location of the meeting in the "Land of Enchantment", which most of them had never visited before. This meeting was followed by the "International Conference on Motions in the Upper Atmosphere" which met on September 7 to 9.
The department has always realized the desirability of being able to reward its better students, and in 1954 two special scholarships became available for this purpose.
- The William Sterling Parsons Memorial Scholarship in Nuclear Physics of $400 was established for an undergraduate physics major and was awarded twice.
- The Westinghouse Achievement Scholarship of $500 for a senior in physics was awarded for seven years beginning in 1955.
- The department also was able to award a handbook donated by the Chemical Rubber Company to the best beginning student in physics for many years. The award frequently went to an engineering student; on the other hand, a few engineering students changed their major to physics and proved to be excellent students.
Also at this time a real beginning in the development of a modern physics laboratory was undertaken by Robert Brown and Norman Seaton. They devised student projects in the advanced laboratories to construct apparatus and circuitry that were eventually used in a regular laboratory course in modern physics. Because of the pressure of increasing enrollments, the Dean of Arts and Sciences gave the department a special allocation to increase by one-third the equipment used in the sophomore laboratories.
President Tom Popejoy, with the approval of the regents, instituted in 1955 a new policy allowing extra remuneration of faculty members having sponsored research. There had been for some time a rule that a faculty member should be able to consult for an organization outside the university provided that the time involved would amount to no more than one day per week. No notice was taken of the amount of money involved. Engineering faculty were not the only ones to take advantage of this, but were joined by faculty from such fields as, for example, geology, economics, sociology, and so on. This was thought to be comparable to the rewards received by faculty members of other departments, such as the humanities, as a result of profitable publication of books and articles. The new policy allowed that an additional remuneration of up to ¼ of a faculty member's academic year salary could be paid him through the university if the sponsoring agency approved. Some did, some did not. For example, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research allowed additional payments during the school year, while the National Science Foundation would allow salary payments only during the summer. Los Alamos approved payment of a bonus for courses, which were considered part of the faculty member's departmental teaching load, taught at Los Alamos. This consideration together with generous expense allowances helped make the teaching program at Los Alamos as successful as it proved to be.
The arbitrary division of those who were rewarded and those who were not depending on the whim of the sponsor even though the effort expended might be the same led inevitably to unhappiness. The contracts for the physics department for 1963-64 marked the end of this policy. In addition to merit increases the new contracts incorporated an addition of 25% to the base salary for all members of the department. The new plan was brought about through the joint efforts of Victor Regener and Hoyt Trowbridge, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and was based on the assumption that the department would collectively be successful in obtaining sponsored research, the overhead from which would justify the higher salaries. The administration approved the plan with the proviso that it be reviewed after two full years of experience. The review must have been as no further mention was ever made.
NSF Physics Teachers Summer Institute, 1955
The summer of 1955 saw the first "Summer Institute for Teachers of Physics" directed by John Green with support from the National Science Foundation. This institute brought together high school and college teachers of physics with stars such as Hans Bethe, William Parker and George Pake. It had the goals of improving the training of teachers in the subject matter of physics, expounding the latest advances in physics, and fostering interactions between teachers of physics at the different academic levels. In connection with the program, an upper division course, "Physics for Secondary School Teachers," was added that could count for graduate credit in the College of Education although not for physics majors. This scheme has since been followed in a few other physics courses because of the conviction of the department that the subject matter of physics is best taught by physicists but that it would be unfair to expect students outside of physics to compete in courses that are largely designed for aspiring professional physicists. The summer institutes continued with major emphasis on secondary school teachers under the sponsorship of the National Science Foundation with Dr. Philip A. Macklin of Miami University taking over the directorship and teaching function from 1957 through 1962.
Support for the department has frequently been forthcoming from nearby institutions and has been gratefully received by the department in furthering its instructional and research goals. In 1956 Los Alamos lent the department a 10-MeV betatron for use in the advanced modern physics laboratory and also a streak camera that was used by Jack Katzenstein to investigate wires exploded by sudden large currents. The betatron was housed in the Research Center Building, where the Computer Center is now located, because that is where the upper division laboratories were then located. This meant that the activities of the department were now spread over four widely separated locations on campus. The following year, the Sandia Corporation made a long term loan to the department of a large quantity of surplus equipment, some of which found useful places in the advanced laboratories and in research work.
In 1957 Victor Regener resigned as chairman of the department. This was the result in part of his refusal to follow the orders of the administration to muzzle Roy Thomas and John Green, who were being injudiciously vocal in their criticism of some of the policies and actions of the administration. Such a clear-cut and forceful reaction had not been anticipated, so the new honorific title of Research Professor was created and bestowed on Professor Regener after his resignation as an expression of the administrations' genuine appreciation of his valuable services to the university. There followed a period of some uncertainty. Despite this, however, the department continued to grow with John Breiland as acting chairman for 1957-58 and again in 1961-62, Christopher Leavitt as acting chairman for 1958-60, and Walter Elsasser as chairman for 1960-61. Finally, in 1962, Professor Regener agreed to resume the chairmanship and remained in that position until his retirement in 1979.
Space for the lower division laboratories, which were still on the second floor of the Administration Building, posed an ever-increasing problem until the completion of Regener Hall. In addition to the three large rooms that were used for laboratories, it had become necessary to block off the central portion of the hallway on the second floor to make an additional laboratory room. Equipment was also a continuing problem, and in 1958 the department was given a special allocation of $10,000 for the sophomore laboratories.
Having a sufficient number of graduate and teaching assistantships has also been a continuing concern of the department over the years. Although sponsored research does contribute to the financial support of some graduate students, the assistantships have been and continue to be a traditional and important means of encouraging and supporting graduate students. In addition, the graduate students gain knowledge and understanding that would be hard to come by otherwise as they grade tests for the various courses and even more as they teach in the undergraduate laboratories. The department at the same time does realize the importance of having expert supervision of the laboratory instruction, particularly at the lower division level. Derek Swinson fulfilled this supervisory task from 1970 until a year or two before his retirement in 1995 when John Panitz and Mickey Odom took over these duties.
Liquid Scintillators: 1957
The wisdom of having the physics building placed on what was then the outskirts of the campus was clear in 1957 when Buildings and Grounds had plenty of space to erect a small building just north of the main building to house two ten-foot liquid scintillators in the form of a vertical telescope with provisions for water or lead absorbers being placed between them. Later three three-foot scintillators were placed in cabañas, each 30 feet from the scintillator telescope. All this was for John Green to carry out a number of investigations of extensive air showers in the cosmic radiation with the support of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.
John Linsley's vehicle for Volcano Ranch and fellow researchers, 1950s-60s
There were further developments in the cosmic ray researches in 1958. John Linsley came from Bruno Rossi's group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in a cooperative venture with the physics department that involved establishing and running for many years a huge array of plastic scintillators at the Volcano Ranch west of Albuquerque for the purpose of studying extremely high-energy electron air showers.
Bolivia Collaboration, 1959
Cosmic Ray Mine Experiment, La Paz, Bolivia 1957-58
Also at this time cooperation was established with the Laboratorio de Física Cósmica de Chacaltaya in La Paz, Bolivia, whose director, Dr. Ismael Escobar, was Visiting Professor of Physics during the spring of 1959. James Kenney, who received his PhD from the department in 1957, represented the department and Professors Regener and Green by conducting a cloud chamber experiment on cosmic rays at the high altitude station on Mt. Chacaltaya in 1957-58 under the sponsorship of the International Geophysical Year and the National Science Foundation.
Embudo Cave 40m Cosmic Ray (Muon) Station, courtesy Elliott Bailey
At the same time he set up an experiment in a mine using Geiger counters for a long-term investigation of time variations of the hard component of the cosmic radiation. Professor Regener later converted to plastic scintillators and with the help of Professor Swinson has had a number of operating stations: on Chacaltaya from 1965 to 1976, in the Embudo Cave in the Sandia Mountains beginning in 1964, in Socorro from 1968, and in the Grand Canyon Caverns from 1979. These experiments concluded in 1984 in Grand Canyon Caverns and in 1994 for the others, on the occasion of Professor Swinson's retirement.
Physics Outreach, 1958-1963
Following Sputnik, three new educational programs came in quick succession. In 1958-59 the department joined in the Continental Classroom TV course put on by the National Broadcasting System and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. This was a nation-wide program called "Physics for the Atomic Age," and students in the College of Education could receive graduate credit by enrolling in Physics 152TV, viewing the programs and taking tests. In 1959-60, the Academic Year Institute for High School Teachers was started by Donald Skabelund and then continued through 1963 by Howard Bryant. The department also cooperated with the Sandia Corporation in implementing its Technical Development Program. The new courses on the intermediate level, "Atomic and Nuclear Physics" and "Physics of Matter," were developed and continued for several years in support of the program.
In 1960 Professor Leavitt made a formal request in his annual report as acting chairman that the teaching load be reduced from 12 to 9 hours each semester. This is not a matter that could be settled offhand by the administration of the university since the Board of Educational Finance and possibly even the State Legislature would also be involved. Eventually formulæ were worked out so that a more realistic appraisal was made of the time spent by faculty members in generating and carrying out sponsored research, which does produce considerable overhead for the university, and in supervising the thesis and dissertation work of graduate students. Typical of this period was 5000 student credit hours for the year and 70 graduate students with seven faculty members. Added to the regular load were the special programs. For example, in the summer of 1962 five hours were offered for the Radiation Biology Institute sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the Atomic Energy Commission, while during the 1962-63 academic year there were 15 hours offered for Sandia's Technical Development Program, eight hours for the Academic Year Institute for High School Teachers sponsored by the National Science Foundation, and 25 hours of upper division and graduate work at Los Alamos of which seven hours were taught by faculty of the department.
Physics merges with Astronomy, 1963
There were other big changes in 1962-63 because at that time the department took over from the Department of Mathematics all responsibilities for astronomy and so became the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Included in the transfer was the observatory to the northwest of the physics building. In addition to serving for research purposes and as a laboratory for astronomy classes, the observatory allowed David King to develop the popular Thursday night open house for viewing by the general public. (In the 1980s, the open house was changed to Friday night.) The 1963-64 catalog lists for the first time a new major and minor in astronomy and physics in addition to the long standing major and minor in physics. This was later changed in 1967-68 to a major and minor in astrophysics, with the first BS in astrophysics being awarded in May 1975.
A new program of the Sandia Corporation (started in 1962-63 and still continuing) offered seed money to faculty members to help them get started in new lines of research. Christopher Leavitt took advantage of this to start a program to measure the neutron albedo at balloon altitudes that was later taken up by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. John Green switched fields in starting a new program to investigate various physical properties of plastic solid organic crystals that was later funded by the National Science Foundation. Charles Beckel obtained a start in two programs for studying ionized diatomic molecules that was later funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and indirectly by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. Seymour Alpert received money to start a project on the scattering of light that was picked up by the National Science Foundation. Much later, in 1986-88, there was support for Nebojsa Duric for his work on image processing, and for Sudhakar Prasad for work on nonlinear optics.
In 1962-63 the department also began participation in the Visiting Scientists Program in Physics that was sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Faculty members were given travel money and a small honorarium to go to different high schools in the state for a day in an attempt to make students aware that there was such a subject as physics and possibly to interest some of them in studying it. This program continued for two more years.
Physics Building Extension, 1963
1919 Lomas NE Extension, 1963
1963 was the year in which application was first made for the extension of the physics building. Eventually in 1963-64 the National Science Foundation gave the department a grant of $350,000 to help in the construction of a Graduate Level Research Building that in all wound up costing $1,060,599. While negotiations were going on there was some talk of offering the department a location for a new building on part of old Zimmerman Field about where Ortega Hall now stands. Such a central location would have much to make it attractive. It was finally decided, however, simply to add the new building on to the old one north of Lomas Boulevard in part because it was clear that it would be easier to obtain outside funding support for a graduate research building than for a general physics building. This again proved to be a wise decision. Shortly after the addition was completed, Victor Regener was able to erect just north of the new building his pyramid on top of which he located a parabolic antenna for receiving signals from balloon-borne apparatus to measure the vertical distribution of atmospheric ozone.
Howard Bryant's Solar Ponds
Later yet, Howard Bryant had lots of clear space to construct solar ponds for a study of their operation and characteristics. In addition to these practical considerations, the view from the faculty offices along the north side of the building was very pleasant. Furthermore for a number of years Howard Bryant and some of the graduate students had a productive vegetable garden just north of the east receiving dock. The view started with the nearby Campus Wash with its natural greenery and abundant wildlife, next came the golf course, and it ended with a practically unobstructed view of the Sandia Mountains in the distance. As time went on, however, the continuing expansion of university medical facilities obliterated more and more of this once-fabulous view until in 2006 it no longer existed.
New Research, 1964
The department hosted the International Ozone Symposium on August 31 to September 4, 1964. Also at that time an addition to the faculty, John Howarth, introduced an entirely new line of research involving the effects of radiation on animals. The completion of the addition to the physics building in November 1965 increased greatly the room available for research projects. For a number of years the department had been requesting increases in faculty to handle the increasing load of special courses that were being added to the normal course offerings as well as to allow the faculty to carry out the many research projects that were underway. Authorization for increasing the number of positions obtained in 1963-64 together with the space now available for research led to a further rapid growth of the department. Derek Swinson came to add to the research in cosmic rays, David King brought new areas of research in astrophysics, Colston Chandler and Charles Beckel strengthened the theoretical arm of the department, and Alan Peterson returned to the department to undertake among other studies research using the 24-inch astronomical telescope that had just been installed at Capilla Peak with the help of the National Science Foundation.
Further additions to the staff over the next few years included A. G. D. Philip in astronomy, Seymour Alpert then in physical optics and later in the energetics of animal bodies, Philip Campbell with radiative transfer of energy, Mohammad Shafi in geomagnetic field studies, Charles Hyder in solar, astrophysical and environmental studies, and James Daniel Finley III in general relativity. Harjit Ahluwalia, who had been at the Laboratorio de Física Cósmica at Mt. Chacaltaya since 1962 and who was its scientific director from 1965 through 1967, joined the department in 1968. Another appointment during this time was that of John Evans as adjunct professor; this marked the strengthening of cooperative relations between the department and the observatory at Sacramento Peak. During this period, with all the additions to the faculty, there was extensive overhauling of the physics curriculum with many additions and much strengthening of the programs in astronomy, astrophysics and space physics.
Regener Hall, 1972
Regener Hall at the University of New Mexico
The new physics lecture and laboratory building, now named Regener Hall, was built during the 1971-72 school year and was first put in use in the fall of 1972. The lecture hall, thanks to the insistence of the department, wound up with excellent acoustics. Even though it is one of the larger halls on campus, seating 300 students, there was a time of swelling enrollments in engineering that strained its capacity and eventually required doubling the lectures for the beginning courses. The new underground laboratories proved very successful with their controlled environment, although at first the prospect of having the rooms completely underground had little aesthetic appeal; however, again the insistence of the department that the underground corridor be spacious and that the stairways be generous in size resulted in very pleasant surroundings. Thus it was that the lower division laboratories, with the enthusiastic concurrence of the administration, at long last moved out of the quarters they had occupied in Scholes Hall since 1935.
One of the features of the new building is the large area for storing and preparing demonstrations. As was mentioned earlier, the department has always been convinced of the importance of demonstrations. Professor Regener was very strong in this belief, and over the years he designed and had built many large and striking demonstrations. Another unusual feature is the installation of a heliostat that allows projection of the solar disc or the solar spectrum in the lecture hall.
Shortly after Regener Hall came into use, the department developed a whole new grouping of courses under the heading "General Interest Courses in Physics and Astronomy" that are open to any interested student and that have no prerequisites. This group has come to include introductions to astronomy, physics, and musical acoustics, meteorology (no longer offered), light, and a two-semester course dealing with physics and society, later reduced to a one-semester course. Except for the course on physics and society, all of the others have associated optional laboratories that have been especially designed to arouse the interest of the students.
New faculty, 1970s
Meanwhile new additions were made to the faculty. Byron Dieterle and David Wolfe strengthened nuclear and particle physics. William Davey was a visiting professor in astrophysics for one year. Lois Kieffaber, who received her PhD in physics from the university in 1973, in addition to carrying out research in zodiacal light and airglow, became a most effective teacher, especially in the lower division courses. Michael Zeilik not only added to the astronomy contingent, but also was active in developing new concepts in teaching astronomy with the sponsorship of the National Science Foundation. John Linsley regularized the connection he had had with the department for many years by becoming a research professor. McAllister Hull came in as a professor of physics and also as provost of the university. Claude Amsler became a research assistant professor specializing in particle physics. David Clark became a research associate professor and Gerald Stevenson became an adjunct professor of physics with both of them specializing in nuclear physics.
In 1978 the approaching retirement of Professor Regener in 1979 caused the department to undertake an extensive search for a new chairman. Since it was a department of physics and astronomy, it seemed only fair to advertise for either a physicist or an astronomer, although with the size of the physics program outweighing that of astronomy, expectations were that it would be a physicist. That proved to be an incorrect expectation because the department chose R. Marcus Price, an astronomer then at the headquarters of the National Science Foundation, to be its next chairman.
National Lab Collaboration
One of the main factors that has helped in building the physics department has been the location nearby of installations such as the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Sandia National Laboratories and Kirtland Air Force Base. The generous cooperation and assistance of these organizations has made available to the faculty and students of the department a wide range of experimental facilities that even a large, wealthy university could scarcely afford. As examples, David King made extensive use of the Los Alamos computers, while Charles Beckel used the computers at Kirtland, Los Alamos and Sandia with papers resulting that were coauthored by researchers at the latter two organizations. Byron Dieterle, Christopher Leavitt, David Wolfe and Howard Bryant were all active at Los Alamos with various experiments in nuclear and particle physics. John Green and Christopher Leavitt were involved in experimental work at Kirtland and Sandia that was used for purposes of theses and dissertations. The formation of the new Institute for Modern Optics was facilitated by the existence of cooperative work with Kirtland, Sandia and Los Alamos.
More distant laboratories have also been utilized. Here important examples are the case of David Wolfe, Byron Dieterle, Christopher Leavitt and Bernd Bassalleck carrying out experiments in particle physics at the Brookhaven National Laboratory. Even farther away, David Wolfe and Byron Dieterle were involved in active research programs at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. The astronomers also were not idle. Marc Price, Jack Burns, Michael Zeilik and Charles Hyder were making extensive use of the facilities at Sacramento Peak, Kitt Peak, the Very Large Array Radio Telescope, and even the observatory at Cerro Tololo, Chili. As well, all the astronomers made extensive use of the computing capabilities at Kirtland and Sandia.
Institute for Modern Optics, 1980
A major development occurred in 1980 with the formation within the department of the Institute for Modern Optics under the direction of Marlan Scully. The institute has proved to be extraordinarily successful in obtaining funding to maintain a high degree of activity in various fields of modern optics. Because of the provisions for joint appointment with the department, the institute has brought in many new faculty members such as Weng Chow, James Small, William Sweatt, James Harvey, Kenneth Jungling, John McNiel, John Bellum and Jack McIver. In addition a large number of research associates and research scientists have become associated with the department partly because of expansion of the department's own research efforts. The department has also continued to grow with regular academic appointments of astronomer Jack Burns, theoretician Kevin Cahill and particle physicist Bernd Bassalleck.
Colloquia and Lecture Series, 1980s
The relative isolation of the physics department, especially in previous years, led the department to sponsor a colloquium series to bring in speakers whose expertise lies in a wide variety of fields so that the graduate and even undergraduate students would have the opportunity of hearing of advances in different fields. A further extension of this idea is the Distinguished Lecture Series, sponsored jointly by the University and Sandia National Laboratories, in which distinguished scientists are brought to the university to give a general presentation of their specialities for the public as well as more technical talks for the scientific and student communities. These programs have proved to be very successful as shown by the fact that in 1981-82 there were 45 speakers at the weekly colloquium series and two speakers in the Distinguished Lecture Series, Dr. Peter Van Nieuwenhuizen and Dr. Martin L Perl.
The department has continued to sponsor scientific meetings. The 157th meeting of the American Astronomical Society was hosted by the department in January 1981 with some 600 astronomers from the United States, Canada and Mexico in attendance. This was followed by a two-day meeting in the spring of 1981 of the Southwest Regional Conference on Astronomy and Astrophysics. Some 300 astronomers from all over the world attended the Symposium #97 of the International Astronomical Union in August, 1981. In the spring of 1984 the Institute for Modern Optics with the assistance of the Center for High Technology Materials sponsored two conferences on the foundations of statistical physics; the first, a two-week updating course, and the second, which was held in Santa Fe and sponsored also by NATO, attracted experts from all over the world. It is expected that the AAS will again meet in Albuquerque, with UNM as host, in the summer of 1990.
Center for High Technology Materials, 1984
The Center of Excellence program inaugurated by the State of New Mexico in 1984 which resulted in establishing the Center for High Technology Materials at the University of New Mexico has supported numerous projects within the department and especially in the Institute for Modern Optics, which formed a foundation on which the CHTM could grow. The CHTM has offices in another building, but still maintains very active contact with researchers in this department. In 1986 the center began a regular program of supporting several new graduate applicants for the department's optical science PhD program.
The Center for Advanced Studies, 1985
In 1985, the Center for Advanced Studies was re-vitalized by its director, Marlan Scully. Although research in the CAS is concentrated primarily in theoretical optics and lasers, there is also interest in general relativity, the theoretical foundations of quantum measurement theory, and some connections with medieval history and poetry via the departments of English and philosophy. The CAS is an extremely active participant in the departmental colloquium, seminar, and visitor program. During all of its existence, the CAS has averaged over 30 visitors a year. Quite a few of these spend considerable time in the department, giving series of seminars on special topics, including Julian Schwinger and David Pines.
Institute for Astrophysics, 1985
A 230-ton Very Large Array radio antenna
In a similar fashion, the growth of research in astrophysics led, in 1985, to the establishment of the Institute for Astrophysics. Although the institute consists only of members of this department, it coordinates much work being done at a large number of observing locations, facilitates interactions between the department and researchers elsewhere, and is an important partner in the task of establishing new observing facilities in the state and implementing usage of the ARC consortium telescope due to come on line in 1990 (the principal local user being NMSU). The location of the VLA (Very Large Array radio telescope) near Socorro in 1975 and the more recent location of the VLBA (Very Long Baseline Array) facilities in Socorro have been important players in this growth. The membership of the institute was furthered by the hiring, in 1986, of Nebojsa Duric and Belva Campbell. Nebojsa has been very instrumental in working with the department's Capilla Peak Observatory. Campbell is particularly interested in those astronomical situations that arise at the birth of new stars. Both of these additions are very interested in observations made at the VLA; both also are very interested in work with undergraduate and graduate students. However, Campbell adds an extra distinction to the department, being its first female regular faculty member.
In addition, the revenues from state bonds earmarked for research and instructional equipment at the universities have been used to update instrumentation in areas of research such as atomic physics and intermediate energy particle physics. Another important use of these revenues has been to upgrade the equipment in the instructional laboratories, especially at the junior and senior level. There is still one major continuing problem with these laboratories in that no provision is made for technical support in setting up, maintaining and troubleshooting the experiments. All of this has always been done by the professor in charge; however, in view of the increasing demands on professorial time for instruction and research, it would seem to be more efficient and economical to add a technical staff member to handle these details. The department has managed to effect significant upgrading and extension of computer terminals for both faculty and students in using the main campus computer facilities.
Albuquerque Public Schools Collaboration, 1983-84
Over the years the department has shown a continuing interest and involvement in science education at all levels. In addition to the Visiting Scientists Program and the many institutes for teachers of physics discussed earlier, individual members of the department have been active in visiting science classes in the Albuquerque Public Schools. In 1983-84 a new program of enrichment lectures and visits to science classes was instituted with the Albuquerque Public School System as well as cooperative work to develop proposals and programs for in-service updating in science developments and for teacher cross-training.
Within the university the department has long been aware that many of the students in beginning physics need special help in learning how to solve problems and in understanding the principles of physics. The latest attempt to address this problem was the establishment of the Tutorial Center in Regener Hall in 1980. Faculty members were devoting many hours each week in support of this program. In 1984 the program was abandoned, primarily because there seemed to be no official recognition in terms of teaching load of the time spent on the program; however, the Tutorial Center was re-opened in the fall of 1987. The department also again tried to make its degree programs more available to students working full time by offering each semester one of the required intermediate courses after 4:30; but again, any gain was more than offset by the inconvenience to regular students as evidenced by losses in enrollment, so regular scheduling was resumed. More successful was the scheduling after 4:30 pm of many courses that would be interesting to the local scientific community, including most of the advanced optics courses.
An important development for the department was the final approval by the Board of Educational Finance in the fall of 1984 for the PhD program in Optical Science/Optical Engineering. The program had already been attracting graduate students since the establishment of the Institute for Modern Optics in 1980. The degree has been offered since the fall of 1985.
Departmental Retreats Begin, 1982
With an almost explosive growth of the department and the complexity of its operations, Professor Price thought it would be good to begin a series of departmental retreats. The day-long meetings allow extended discussion of many issues concerning the department's development that would not be possible in the shorter faculty meetings held during the year. The first of these was held in May 1982, on the campus of St. John's College in Santa Fe, the second in May 1983, at the South Golf Course, and the next several again at St. John's College. Later, there was a move to a location at Bishop's Lodge in Santa Fe, which seems eminently suited to these meetings.
The increased size of the department has brought a large increase in administrative chores. The efforts of Professor Finley in assisting to carry out these services for the two years previous were finally recognized officially in 1983, when he was appointed Associate Chairman of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. When Professor Price agreed to become Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, in July 1985, Professor Finley was selected to take over the chores of the chairmanship.
One of the pressing needs of the department for the near future is the construction of new space, both for increased space for graduate and faculty research, and for a new campus observatory. Student enrollment in courses involving observing is greatly restricted because of the limited facilities of the present observatory. Even worse is the interference to good seeing presented by the street lights and the lights of the parking lots which now surround the observatory. The observatory at Capilla Peak was upgraded under the direction of Professor Zeilik which greatly enhanced the capabilities for extragalactic astronomy. In 1986 there was officially appointed a technical support person for the observatory, in the person of Tom Williams; in 1989 this support person was picked up by the university in the form of a state-budget line item for the Institute for Astrophysics.
The upsurge in activity brought about by programs of the Institute for Modern Optics and by expanding programs within the department itself makes present office and research space of the Physics and Astronomy Building quite inadequate even though every effort has been made to utilize as effectively as possible the space that is available. An additional wing was requested for the present building, but there was pressure to have Physics and Astronomy join other science and engineering departments in the southwest quadrant of the campus. In 1986, with the hiring of Jean-Claude Diels, a world-renowned expert in femtosecond laser technology and its applications, the department finally began to be able to expand its optics activities more seriously into the experimental regime.
Just prior to that, Jack McIver had decided to take the need for experimental activities into his own hands; even though his training is in theoretical optics, he opened a laser laboratory for student training. (Professor McIver had originally come to UNM as a post-doctoral person, but was officially hired as a regular faculty member in 1984.) In 1988, the department hired Daniel McGraw, also working in experimental optics with dye lasers. As well, in 1988 the department was able to move John Panitz from his many years of established research work in surface physics and high-field ion-microscopy at Sandia National Laboratory to UNM. Although Professor Panitz brought with him quite a legacy of experience, equipment and expertise, the department's space problem hit a grinding "crunch" at that point. Happily the building had originally been planned (by Chairman Regener) with a large basement for storage. The university spent the fall semester (and a portion of the spring) of 1988 converting this basement into new laboratory facilities for Professors Panitz and McGraw. (There had already been three medium-size laboratories created in the original basement area back in 1982-3. In 1988 those two of those laboratories were being used by Professor Diels for experiments in laser optics, with the other being used by Charles Beckel for work on the effect of simultaneous electric and magnetic fields on living cells.) Nonetheless, the department's need for space remained preeminent among all of the items on its list of needs and wants.
The department has also been able to add faculty with expertise in theoretical optics. In 1985, when John Bellum left the university for industrial opportunities, Sudhakar Prasad was hired as a beginning Assistant Professor, with an extremely varied set of interests, including nonlinear optics, squeezed optical states, hydrodynamics, and quantum field theory. In 1986, when Weng Chow again left the department for industrial opportunities, Wilhelm Becker was hired, as an Associate Professor, with a distinguished background in theoretical calculations in very-high-field quantum electrodynamics, especially as applied to laser physics.
Visiting Faculty, mid-1980s
The department was able, beginning approximately in 1983, to start having visiting faculty positions available, to spread out the teaching of departmental classes and to bring in outside expertise and experience for the mutual benefit of everyone involved.
- Professor Gyula Bencze from the Central Research Institute for Physics in Hungary was an early such visitor.
- In 1986, Professor Gerard Stephenson, from Los Alamos National Laboratory and long associated with the department, was able to spend a sabbatical-year visit with us.
- In 1985, Professor Jerzy Plebanski from the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Avanzados del lnstituto Politecnico Nacional in Mexico City (and on leave from the University of Warsaw in Poland) visited for a semester, and the following year, Dr. Jerry Kristian, an expert in many aspects of observational astronomy came from the California Institute for Technology for a semester. He delivered a very interesting set of lectures on some of the observational foundations of our current understanding of cosmology.
- Dr. Janos Bergou, also from Hungary and an expert in laser theory, visited for 2½ years.
- Professor Krzysztof Wodkiewicz from Warsaw, Poland, had been visiting twice for a month and came in the fall of 1989 for a year, continuing to come after that every other year for a year.
- Miguel Orszag has visited (and taught courses), coming from the University of Santiago, in Chile.
- Also in 1989, we had Professor Paolo Grigolini, an international expert in stochastic processes from the University of Padua, was able to spend the spring semester.
- During the fall of 1989, we expect Professor Piskarskas from Lithuania to visit and lecture on nonlinear optics.
- Professor Joel Fontaine, from France, will be spending the entire year with the department, and assisting with many aspects of the experimental laser optics program.
The department has also been contributing to visitors in reverse. Harjit Ahluwalia spent most of the calendar years 1986-88 as a program monitor at NASA, on leave from the department, although he did visit usually about two days per month. Howard Bryant spent a year, in 1986/87, as the director of the HIRAB project at Los Alamos National Laboratory, while David King has spent 1988/89 and 1989/90 at the same laboratory, working on a project to better be able to adjudge the intensity of atomic explosions, working with Los Alamos and with Soviet scientists.
Industry Alliances, 1980s
The department has already established ties with local and national industries with the goal of having research assistantships, equipment, seed money for research, and support for faculty members provided by industrial partners. Already support for one graduate student has been given by three firms in Albuquerque: CVI Laser Corporation in 1982, Tetra Corporation in 1983, and International Laser Systems in 1985. It is anticipated that these ties with industry will be strengthened and expanded in the future. In 1986 and 1987, Hughes Laser Systems has made small donations for the use of the graduate program in optics. In mid-1988, in memory of a physicist working there, and an Adjunct Professor with the department, Tetra Corporation established an endowed scholarship for the department's use in honoring undergraduates who do exceptionally well in their courses of study. The proceeds from the Eoin W. Gray Scholarship are used each year to honor the very best graduating seniors who have elected to take "Physics Honors" in their senior year.
With the idea of finally beginning to become part of (and to take advantage) of the large quantities of local (laboratory) expertise in condensed matter physics, the department hired V. M. (Nitant) Kenkre in early 1985. Coming from Rochester University, Professor Kenkre was a recognized expert in transport problems in theoretical condensed matter physics and has been quite involved in setting up collaborative efforts with researchers at Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories. He also brought with him continuing collaborations with faculty in several different countries of the world. An outgrowth of this sort of thought was his almost immediate establishment of the "nu" seminar series, a weekly seminar on some aspect of condensed matter physics (or other portion of physics with applications in this area) given by different visitors every week has been a very exciting portion of the department's continually growing set of seminar series. During these years, the interest of condensed matter physics has brought Charles Beckel into very serious work on special aspects of this area. His and Professor Kenkre's work on boron and boron carbides has caused them to have a series of international conventions on this subject, along with considerable interest from many sources. In 1989, Professor Beckel's work (with collaborators David Emin at Sandia National Laboratory and others in California) was recognized by the Department of Energy as the very best work of its sort performed by any of its contractors during that year. In the fall of 1989, the department hired David Dunlap as an addition to the department's effort in the areas of condensed matter physics.
The Department of Physics and Astronomy together with the Institute for Modern Optics faces the future with every expectation and assurance of the growth and increasing quality of the various educational and research programs. Especially encouraging was the assessment of research-doctoral programs in physics in the United States made in 1982 by the Conference Board of Associated Research Councils. This study, sponsored by the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Council on Education, the National Research Council, and the Social Science Research Council, rated the Department of Physics and Astronomy of the University of New Mexico third in the country in terms of the improvement achieved in its graduate programs during the previous five years.
In the same vein, the department underwent a graduate program review in the fall of 1987, under the auspices of the Office of Graduate Studies. The panel members were distinguished physicists and astrophysicists (selected with the help of the department) representing all major fields of effort within the department, and headed by Dr. Hermann Feshbach from MIT. Large quantities of data and description were amassed by the department for the review committee. Their report was very promising, indicating that the department was in a state of transition. The introduction to the review states that
Its goal is to become a first class research department. It has made a great deal of progress. . . . Recent appointments to the faculty have been excellent. The quality of the graduate students has improved. Advantage has been taken of the existence of excellent federally funded research organizations in New Mexico. . . . The academic administration should be congratulated on its perceptive support of the department. If these developments continue, the future of physics and astronomy at the University of New Mexico is very bright.
As part of the university's Centennial celebration campaign, in 1988-89, the department had two inter-related activities. The first was a Physics and Astronomy Centennial Lecture Series, with a very distinguished list of visiting speakers, on subjects ranging from the (fairly) recent supernova explosion to the latest efforts in trying to understand information science, this last being delivered by Nobel Laureate Murray Gell-Mann. Along with Dr. Gell-Mann's series of talks, the department held its first-ever student reunion, with invitations out to all students who had ever received a degree from the department. This reunion involved tours of the departmental buildings, the facilities at CHTM, talks by Dr. Gell-Mann, and a banquet, where there were over 100 in attendance, establishing it as a great success.