News from the Chair

Seymour Samuel Alpert
Si Alpert

Remembering Si

Professor Seymour Samuel Alpert's pioneering work using laser light to study biological subjects was followed by years of research on the physics of biological energy storage and balance resulted in many publications directly related to a major current problem in our country: obesity. He was convinced that application of physical principles to this problem would lead to proper understanding and he had very little tolerance for the many "theories" and "diets" found in the popular press. He was a man of integrity, and an excellent teacher and physicist.

Si was a man of broad interests and talents. He was a pilot who enjoyed taking friends on flights over the beautiful terrain of the New Mexico and the Southwest and then frightening other friends with stories of some of these adventures. He described himself as a "Zionist" because he did most of his own home improvements, such as replacing the roof, and other projects with his own hands. He even made his own wine. The "wine cellar" under his house used to be well-stocked with his own hand-labeled product. And if you were not careful he might give you a bottle to take home. He could cook a wicked meatloaf, in his prime.

He loved Gilbert and Sullivan, singing in the chorus of amateur productions in Albuquerque. He volunteered in many community charitable projects including serving food to the homeless on holidays, and being a "Big Brother". He taught a class for many years in making stained-glass objects in an Albuquerque senior center. He believed in keeping in good physical shape. He ran most every day, rode his bike, visited the gym regularly, where he had many buddies. Tennis was a special interest for Si and he had many enthusiastic tennis friends. He loved folk dancing, in particular Scottish dancing, and he enjoyed putting on the tartan.

In his later days he took up the piano, determinedly taking lessons and faithfully practicing. He particularly admired ragtime. He loved to tell stories.

Si started out as a premed student at UCLA, after finishing at Dorsey High in LA. After his first year in UC medical school, where he was a top student, he decided that he'd rather do physics, and did one year ('53-'54) at Berkeley, before his draft board took away his exemption. He spent the next two years in the Army Medical Corps as an x-ray technician, mostly mopping floors, according to him. He came back to Berkeley and finished his Ph.D. in experimental physics. After some time at Bell Labs and Columbia, he came to UNM ('66), where he spent the rest of his career.

Si was a world traveler, on sabbaticals and other occasions, he visited much of Europe, Southeast Asia, Australia. One of his favorite stories was about his time spent in a kibbutz in Israel, where he worked on a turkey farm.

We will miss you, Si. You were one of a kind.

Read the Albuquerque Journal Obituary for details on his April 13 memorial service.

University of New Mexico
Department of Physics and Astronomy
1919 Lomas Blvd. NE
Albuquerque NM 87131-0001
505-277-2616
505-277-1520 fax