History: Chapter 4 (1978-1991)

Written by Edward W. Thomas (Director/Chair 1981-1991), 2009.

This section covers the period from the end of the Directorship of Dr. James Stevenson through to the end of the Directorship of Dr. Edward Thomas. It includes a short period when the Director was Dr. David Finkelstein and short periods when Dr. Charles Braden was Acting Director.

The section is written by Dr. Edward Thomas who was Director of the School from early 1982 until the end of the 1990-91 year. He chose to follow the approach of Dr. David Wyly who had started the work on the School’s History. Dr. Thomas took each year in the period and wrote a synopsis of the events which took place. The faculty listings were transcribed from the Institutional Catalogues and the Catalogue also were used to give information on the changes to educational programs. Surprisingly it was found that the Dean’s office had kept copies of all annual reports prepared by Directors and Chairs starting in the year 1978-79. The Dean’s office also has some historical personnel files on people who were no longer at Tech (retired, deceased, resigned, etc.). Dr. Thomas used all of these resources, supplemented of course with his own recollections and the recollections of colleagues. This year-by-year listing of events and changes is attached to the History as an “Appendix” along with other similar documents covering other periods. All of those working on the History realized that the year-by-year reviews did not make interesting reading and were inadequate to capture events which developed over long periods.  So, Dr. Thomas chose to write this narrative account of the period.

The period was marked by great change in the Institution as a whole and a certain degree of instability during some times. In 1978 the Institution was clearly the leading Engineering School in the South East. By the end of the period some of the more important Engineering programs were nationally ranked in the top three of their fields. At the start of the period, the President was Joseph Pettit, an Electrical Engineer who previously was Provost at Stanford University. Georgia Tech was recruiting the major leaders from top ranked Institutions. [Shortly before this piece was written in 2009, our own Provost (Jean-Lou Chameau) was hired away from Tech to be President of Caltech. Obviously Georgia Tech has become a recruiting ground for other major Institutions.]

In 1978 every permanent faculty member of the School was a Caucasian male. Most were Americans who obtained his Ph.D. degrees in the USA. A few are Europeans who obtained their Ph.D.s in Europe. The Ph.D. student population was increasingly students with BS degrees from overseas institutions. By 1978 about a quarter of our graduate students were from abroad, mostly from China or Taiwan. The domination of Ph.D. programs by foreign students is a nationwide phenomenon and occurs in all scientific and technical disciplines, although the early prominence was seen first in Physics. This change in the make up of the Ph.D. student population inevitably caused a change in the make up of the faculty we hired. It is no surprise that in 1982, we hired the first faculty member who was born and received his Bachelors education in a foreign country but whose graduate education was in the USA. This was Dr. Rajarshi Roy who later became Chair of the School. The School also eventually recruited two female members into the faculty.  One was Dr. Mei-Yin Chou (Chou), who also eventually took the position of Chair of the School. The large numbers of foreign graduate students in Ph.D. programs was no longer a matter of comment, and many observers regarded this as the norm. In 1978 this caused of great national worry among Physics’ faculties.

The real concern was to understand why American born students did not see a future in seeking a Ph.D. in Physics, and what this might mean for the long term national support for the discipline. Part of the reason for the decrease in American Ph.D. student numbers was that the engineering disciplines increasingly developed programs in basic research areas and attracted students who in previous years would have studied a science. This was seen in the developments at Georgia Tech. For example, the School of Electrical Engineering performed most of the research on topics related to condensed matter. Mechanical Engineering handled plasma physics. In some years it appeared that half of the Physics’ B.S. graduates who had the potential for Ph.D. studies, in fact, applyed for places in engineering programs.

At the start of this period, the School was seeking a new Director (the position now called Chair) to lead the School after Dr. James Stevenson’s resignation. To understand the difficulties of filling that position one must understand what the job entailed at that time. Basically it was a management position. The Director was responsible for the School’s budgets, personnel matters, instructional programs, and research activities. The Director set up the payroll, hired non-tenured personnel, and dealt with any and all problems. The Director’s position had no fixed term and no guaranteed period of tenure. At the end of a year, if the administration was satisfied with the School’s activities, then the Director found himself reappointed. But if the senior administration was not satisfied, then the Director was not reappointed. The writer once was told by a senior Administrator never to ask for less than $5,000; such small sums should be found in the School’s budget. Moreover at the end of the fiscal year, it was highly desirable that the School’s budget (of some millions of dollars—including payroll of all faculty) show a surplus of less than a dollar. Negative balances were not encouraged. In the 1980-81 annual report Dr. Charlie Barden, Acting Director, wrote that “The administrative structure of the Institute makes the School unmanageable in my judgement.” The position of Director was not a position of academic leadership; it was a position of resource and personnel management.

After Dr. Stevenson’s resignation the Institution set up the conventional search committee to look for a replacement. The Institution saw a vacant Director (aka Chair) position as an opportunity to hire a well known external figure who would bring instant recognition to the School and assist in the objective of increasing national visibility. Thus searches really sought a person with a stellar research record in a nationally ranked institution. National laboratories and well know industrial laboratories were considered to be a particularly fertile ground for such recruitment. However, the capabilities of the candidates in areas of research and national recognition were rather different from the responsibilities of the position of management and decision. People were interviewed; offers were made and offers were rejected. Various excuses were made by candidates, but it is the writer’s opinion that the candidates recognized the great burdens of the position and how difficult it would be for a person to enter the position and also maintain his (or her) creative intellectual activities. We enter the Fall of 1978, without anybody appointed and Charlie Braden, Stevenson’s Associate Director, was handling the School as Acting Director. Later in the year, the School contacted Professor David Finkelstein at Yeshiva, about the position, offered it, and Dr. Finkelstein accepted to start work in January 1979. Dr.  Braden continued as Associate Director and handled all day to day operations of the School. He even wrote the annual report at the end of the 1978-79 year.

David Finkelstein proposed some rather bold moves to improve the School’s external visibility. These involved the recruitment of a large group away from another university. This proposal did not meet with any real faculty approval. The group had no obvious interactions with any existing program at Tech. Moreover the sheer size of the group and the cost of moving it would have overwhelmed the School’s existing activities and substantially changed the School’s character. Faculty were upset. The move did not take place. Other practical decisions made by Dr. Finkelstein did not meet with approval. Generally the faculty were very unhappy with Dr.  Finkelstein’s leadership of the School. He resigned as Director during the year 1979-80, but he continued at Tech as a well respected faculty member.

Charlie Braden, who had been Dr. Finkelstein’s Associate Director, once again took over as Acting Director. This move was absolutely fine with the majority of the faculty. Braden had been running the internal operations of the School for many years, and the faculty were very confident in his decisions. The Dean set up yet another search committee. Worthy individuals were interviewed and declined the position. The writer (Ed Thomas) also applied for consideration, and at the end of the whole search process, the Dean offered Dr. Thomas the position. This should have started with the beginning of the 1981-82 academic year. But Dr.  Thomas had already made arrangements to work for six months at an Institution in Sweden. The Dean permitted him to honour the commitment. Once again Charlie Braden continued to run the School as Acting Director.

Dr. Edward Thomas took up the Director’s position in March 1982 and continued in the position until the 1990-91 Academic year. At that point, after nine year’s service under three Presidents and three Deans, the faculty generally felt that this was enough, and Dr. Thomas resigned to be replaced immediately by Henry Valk, a member of the faculty of the School. Dr.  Valk had appointed Dr. Thomas as Director when in Dr. Valk’s former position as Dean. The subsequent Directors/Chairs will tell their own stories.

It is worth recounting the history of the senior administration for the Institute during this period. For some of the years this was turbulent and unpredictable. In 1978 President of the Institution was Joseph Pettit, an Electrical Engineer, formerly Provost at Stanford. He was a hard nosed individual who worked hard to improve the Institution, experimented with various managerial devices and drove the Institution forward in its quest for national prominence.  Working closely with President Pettit was Dr. Thomas Stelson who had the position of Vice President for Research. Dr. Stelson was a Mechanical Engineer by training. His brother Paul Stelson, was a well known physicist and a manager at Oak Ridge. This family relationship was not to our advantage. Dr. Stelson would hear comments about Physics from his brother and made decisions based on this information. Dr. Stelson ran the research program like a business with attention to overheads and bottom lines. This did not endear him to the School of Physics. The third person of the senior administration was Henry Bourne with the position of Vice President for Academic Affairs. Another Electrical Engineer and former senior NSF manager, Dr. Bourne actually performed his Ph.D. research on the subject of ionization using a Van de Graaff accelerator and with the work being personally supervised by Robert Van de Graaff himself.  Henry Bourne was very well regarded. Physics was located in the College of Arts and Sciences where Henry Valk was Dean. Dean Valk was a physicist who, after his arrival at Tech, made a point of teaching a class in the School and having tenure established in the School.

Shortly after Dr. Thomas effectively took the position of Director of Physics (March 1982), Henry Valk announced his wish to resign as Dean. This was effective with the start of the 1982-1983 academic year. Dr. Valk promptly took off on a one year sabbatical to recharge his batteries–so the School did not see much of him for a while. When he returned he joined the School’s activities as an honored faculty member making a considerable contribution to our teaching of “The Physics of Music” (Henry is an accomplished Violinist.) and the Quantum Mechanics courses. Dr. Valk was replaced as Dean by Les Karlovitz, formerly Director of the School of Mathematics at Tech. Dean Karlovitz believed in a minimal management structure and promptly eliminated most of the positions in the Dean’s office. This meant less practical support from the Dean’s office and more responsibilities for the Chairs of the Schools. The administrative line-up stayed constant for a while, and Tech continued its strides forward. The School of Physics managed to hire some new faculty members and to start moving into new research areas. Then President Pettit became ill and eventually died while still in office. He was replaced, on an acting basis, by Henry Bourne who had been Vice President for Academic Affairs. The few months of Bourne’s service were a delight to the lower administrative levels.  Acting President Bourne made good clear decisions, and he easily transmitted what he wanted done.

The new permanent President was John Patrick Crecine who came to us from Carnegie Mellon and was best known for establishing programs in Public Policy. He had something as a reputation as a computer expert and was on the Board of Directors of the NEXT computer company (owned by Steve Jobs of Apple fame–and now out of business). [I will let other write about the reasons for Crecine’s selection.] Within a year of arrival, President Crecine proposed major changes to the structure of the Institution. The Sciences, then part of the College of Arts and Sciences (COSALS) would become a separate College of Science under the existing Dean (Karlovitz). Computing (then in COSALS) would become a separate college. The Arts, which were all non-degree granting Schools, would be required to develop degree programs in technology related areas, e.g., the departments of Modern Languages and English were to become a School of Communications with a degree in that area. The College of Management would lose its College status, be combined with the Arts, and become the “Ivan Allen College of Arts and Management”. (Crecine had just secured an endowment from the Ivan Allen family!!).  These proposals were rammed through faculty governance with the use of some strange interpretations of the rules. Members of the (former) College of Management were incensed and mounted a campaign of opposition. The Arts were not very happy either. The Engineers stayed neutral and the Sciences generally opposed the whole thing. Other problems, which do not need to be listed here, developed with the management style of President Crecine. Generally this all led to a tumultuous and negative situation with most of the senior administrators opposing President Crecine in private and sometimes in public. Dr. Thomas Stelson, VP for Research, resigned (or was fired) and was replaced by Dr. Michael Thomas who took the title of Provost.  The Dean of Sciences, Karlovitz, resigned to take up a position elsewhere (and died eight months later). He was replaced by Dr. Robert Pierotti from Chemistry. Physics became involved when some of its faculty vocally opposed President Crecine’s moves. Dr. Joseph Ford led the dissent.  It was in Dr. Ford’s character to oppose authority, particularly when decisions by authority led to unhappiness. He was forever writing letters of protest to newspapers, Board of Regents’ Members, and so forth. His activities did not improve the relationship of the School with the administration. In the middle of this general mess, Dr. Thomas resigned from the Director’s position. It is interesting to note that after President Crecine was forced from the President’s position, the Ivan Allen College was separated into a College of Management and a College of the Arts (called the Ivan Allen College). This was the structure that most of Crecine’s opponents had proposed.

A note about the management structure of the School during this period: Dr. Braden had been Dr. Stevenson’s “Associate Director” and continued in that position until June 1982.  Whenever the position of Director became vacant he also took the title of Acting Director. Dr.  Braden was a very well regarded individual with many years experience running a smooth operation. He was not a great one for change, but certainly provided stability in times of difficulty. In reviewing the School’s operations, this writer was a bit surprised that there was nobody in the faculty (other than Braden) who had any management or administrative experience–and that included Dr. Thomas. To try and remedy this, and to get some new ideas into our programs, Dr. Thomas created two replacement positions. One was Assistant Director for Graduate Affairs. The other was Assistant Director for Undergraduate Affairs. The intent was that the incumbents would hold the positions for only two years and then other faculty would rotate into the positions. The objective was to build up experience without damaging people’s careers. Over the years the positions were occupied by Ron Fox, Jim Tanner, Roger Wartell, Helmut Biritz, Ian Gatland, and Don O’Shea. Two of these persons later became Chairs of their Schools (Fox of Physics and Wartell of Biology).

The support staff of the School consisted of an Administrative Assistant (a general office manager), two or three typist/receptionist secretaries, an electronics technician, and two (sometimes three) workshop personnel. It was a pretty slender complement of rather excellent people. One secretary, Anna Ruth Hale, acted as the Director’s receptionist and secretary, handled all purchases for the School, and supervised any major mailing campaigns such as graduate recruitment, faculty hirings, etc. Ms. Hale steadfastly refused to adopt any modern office equipment. All she needed was a calculator, her Selectric typewriter and a few notebooks.  For most of the period John Barbour was the Administrative Assistant for the School, managing all office activities. He kept the main accounts for the School and for funded projects, provided the boiler plate material on grant proposals, dealt with payroll, space assignments, keys, leaks in the roof, etc. A man of many talents, John was a great believer in technology and taught himself how to use spreadsheets. He was so efficient that when there were administrative problems with the two small Schools of Modern Languages and English, he took on the management of their affairs in addition to that of Physics. In his spare time John operated a commercial plant nursery specialising in raising jonquils. Physics had its own machine shop, and Ronnie Bell was the manager for this whole period. There was also a student shop. To have access to this, a student had to prove to Ronnie that he would not damage himself or the machinery. All these personnel fell under the State budget of Physics. While some of these functions were of general use to all faculty (e.g., typists) there were other functions which benefited only a few. For example most of the electronics technician time and all the machine shop personnel benefited only experimental research projects. A number of attempts were made to arrange for faculty to “pay” for their shop time from grants and contracts. That proved impossible to organize. A related facility expense was computer time–a facility essential to some theoretical members of the School. The central computer cost money, and the institution was anxious that faculty using it for sponsored research should pay for the use. So at some point the institution provided an allowance of time to each faculty member based on their perceived need for time. The unit of time was called a “banana.”  The banana budget was fixed at the start of the year. One could shift bananas between individual faculty but once one was out of bananas then one was out of computing time. This system did not work any better than having faculty pay for workshop time!! There is a real problem in equitably distributing institutional resources when the faculty who receive them have different types of needs. It is particularly difficult when the resources are inadequate, as was often the case at Tech. Attempting to develop an equitable distribution of resources took a large part of the Director’s time, and the result generally satisfied nobody.

Let us review the changes to the faculty during this period. The School has always striven to increase the size of its faculty, and the period 1978 through 1991 was no exception. Each year the Director planned to increase the faculty numbers and sought the assistance of the Dean and Senior Administration in providing the necessary positions. In practice, while there were changes in composition, the total numbers remained virtually unchanged. In the 1978-79 Academic Year Catalogue there were 33 persons listed with Professorial titles. In 81-82 the number was 32 and in 1990-1991 the number was 32!! Perhaps one should allow for persons listed under Physics who did not actually contribute to the routine programs of the School. Dr. Vernon Crawford was listed in 1978-1979 although at this point he was Vice President for Academic Affairs and had no relationship with the School. Dr. Henry Valk was Dean of the College and his contribution to Physics was to teach one course per year. Doctors Edwin Scheibner and R.A. Young were full time researchers in GTRI and did not teach courses in the School. So in 1978-1979 if we subtract the four members who contributed nothing (or very little) to the School, the count of effective members is 29. By 1990-1991 there were no persons in the faculty list who do not teach in the School. So perhaps there was a small increase from 29 in 1978-1979 to 32 in 1990-1991. In 1978-1979 we had three faculty who were full time teachers and who had no Ph.D. degree, Nesbitt Kendrick, Leroy Woodward, and William Woolf. By 1990-1991 we had no such faculty.  In 1978-1979 four of the faculty gained their Ph.D.s at Tech (Eugene Patronis, Augustus Stanford, Harry Dulaney, James Tanner). By 1990-1991 three of these were still at Tech (Dulaney had retired), and we have not hired any more of our own graduates. In the early days of Tech’s Ph.D. programs, there were frequent hiring of Tech Ph.D.s into Tech faculty positions; this occurred in many Schools on the campus. By the 1970s there was a strong reluctance on behalf of the Institute’s leadership to hire our own graduates and the practice ended. In 1978-1979 the faculty was all male and all Caucasian. By 1990-1991 the faculty lists contain two women and three faculty are of Asian descent (Rajarshi Roy, Tai-Huang Huang, Mei-Yin Chou).  Over the period there was a shift in the population of the various ranks. In 1978-1979, 21 of the 31 faculty were in the rank of Professor (including those who had the additional title of Regents’ Professor). There was only one untenured Assistant Professor. In 1990-1991 the number of Professors (including Regents’ Professors) had declined to 19 out of the total faculty complement of 32. In 2009 there were 10 untenured Assistant Professors. A continuing feature of the School was the large number of its faculty who have been awarded the title of “Regents’ Professor.” In 1978-1979 there were five and in 1990-1991 four. (This is a considerably higher fraction that in most Schools.) There is a story that an important person visiting the Institution once asked Henry Bourne, the VP for Academic Affairs, what were the requirements for becoming a “Regents Professor”? Dr. Bourne replied that he was not sure, but that if the visitor cared to go over to Physics he would find out, because the School was full of them!!

A subtle change to the hiring patterns of the School was the need to accommodate the professional interests of a potential faculty member’s spouse. The first time this occurred was in the 1984-85 recruitment period when we sought to hire Dr. Andrew Zangwill. His wife was a corporate attorney working in matters related to the New York Stock Exchange. That was not a career path that had any real parallel in Atlanta. To assist in the recruitment process, the School actually flew Sonia Fishkind to Atlanta separately from her husband and provided some connections to local law firms which resulted in job interviews. A couple of years later we were attempting to hire Dr. Kurt Wiesenfeld. His wife was a writer, and we assisted her make contact with the “Atlanta Journal-Constitution” where she became a reporter for a while. As a further complication we began to see professional couples where both members would require an academic position in Atlanta – ideally both at Tech. This required some coordination with the other academic unit involved. It is interesting to reflect on what happened in 1945 when J. Q.  Williams, a bachelor hired in Physics, wished to marry Ethel Hembry, a Georgia Tech librarian.  It was State law at that time that two married people could not both work at Tech. In J. Q.’s case Ethel resigned from Tech!!

During the period there were some changes to the research emphasis of the School. In 1978-1979 there are clusters of faculty in the general areas of Atomic and Molecular Physics (the major figure being Dr. Earl McDaniel), Nuclear Physics (led by Doctors Charles Braden and David Wyly), Solid State Physics, and a developing activity in Biophysics. By 1990-1991 the Atomic and Molecular Physics remained strong, though with changes to the faculty. Nuclear physics had virtually disappeared. Both Solid State and Biophysics grew in strength and size. In addition by 1990-1991 the School had developed two new thrusts. One was the Optics program, started by Dr. Donald O’Shea but included independent work by Dr. Raj Roy and Dr. Brian Kennedy. The School had also developed an outstanding reputation for research into non-linear and chaotic phenomena. This came through a loosely knit group of people with diverse backgrounds. The most visible figure in the group, and “Guru” of Chaos, was Dr. Joseph Ford.  Within the whole School only one of the research areas functioned as a “group” in the sense that there were leaders and followers, and all worked on basically the same project. This was the case for the Nuclear Physics group headed by Dr. Wyly and Dr. Braden which was in decline by 1978. In the other areas there were rather loose groupings of people who had their own research agendas but who co-operated from time to time when this was to their mutual advantage.

Financial support for newly hired faculty was rather poor. In 1982 the funding promised for the support of Raj Roy, an experimentalist, was less than Dr. Roy’s annual salary. Start up funds today run to many times the annual salary of the person receiving them. A further complication was that the start-up-funds were not part of the “State” budget and were not in hand at the start of the year. Rather the “Start-up-Funds” were to be drawn from the overhead that the Institution was to earn from its grants and contracts as the year progressed. So, the funds were never available at the start of the year and trickled in only month by month. Sometimes the funds did not show up at all in the year promised, and “payment” was delayed to the following year. So a typical experimentalist was provided with far less money than was necessary to crank up a highly functioning laboratory–and the money often did not show up until 12 months after the new faculty member had arrived at Tech. A number of our young hires attempted to duplicate the excellent facilities they had used in their Ph.D. and Postdoctoral positions where they had worked in well funded, long established, groups. Their attempts failed. With no functioning equipment there were no publication and no success in raising research grants and contracts. As a result, as faculty moved towards the tenure decision, a number of our experimentalists found that they had very little to show for the years they had spent at Tech. A positive tenure decision was unlikely in some cases. Anticipating the problem, a number of faculty resigned from Tech right before the final tenure decision and moved to some other employment. The School suffered a number of distressing loses during this period. Faculty with theoretical programs also suffered from poor support but generally there was something they could do with limited finances. There was no case of a “theoretical” faculty member failing to get tenure. Since 1991 the Institution has provided much greater financial support for new experimental projects and many of the new faculty had the experience of developing a new facility in previous position. The rate of retention to tenure is of course now much higher.

A notable feature of the 1978-91 period is the systematic increase in the external visibility of our faculty. Our faculty were always well regarded by the peer group of their research specialization. In some limited areas the work at Tech prior to 1978 dominated the field: the X-ray spectroscopy of Ray Young, the “Drift Tube” studies by Earl McDaniel, and the high energy ionization and excitation studies by David Martin and Edward Thomas. Some broader recognition came from the writing of books. Prior to 1978 there was a well received book by Ron Fox (entitled the Uroborus) plus a number of books by Earl McDaniel, one by Donald O’Shea, and one by Edward Thomas. The books by Doctors McDaniel and O’Shea were designed as class texts. Both were published in large numbers, re-published in a number of languages and received very wide circulations. Doctors Young and Finkelstein were Editors of national journals, and Dr. McDaniel edited a number of commercially published periodicals. Broader recognition of the faculty started to occur in the mid-1980s. The most notable of our faculty was Dr. Ford whose pioneering work on Non-Linear Dynamics and Chaos suddenly received enormous recognition. In 1983-84 he gave 25 invited lectures, was cited twice in the New York Times, and was interviewed by the Canadian Broadcasting Company. In 1986 Henry Valk was awarded the British decoration of “MBE” (Member of the Order of the British Empire) for his service to the Marshall Scholarship program, which is funded by the British Government and provides scholarships to American students to study in Britain. That year Dr. O’Shea published a second text book that received wide use in other institutions. In the 1987-88 year there were two books published, one by Dr. Zangwill, the other by Dr. Fox. Within twelve months both were listed as “Main Selections” by the Library of Science Book Club. (The writer recalls being in Oxford, England, in 1989 and walking past the windows of “Blackwells,” the main book store for the University. There in the window was both the book by Dr. Zangwill and the most recent book by Dr. O’Shea. Inside on the shelves was Dr. Fox’s most recent book. It was a source of real pride to see the Georgia Tech by-line on the shelves of that important institution.) In 1989 Dr. Ford was honored by a 60th birthday edition of the journal “Physica D.” In 1989-90 Dr.  Ford’s work was discussed in the pages of Nature, Dr. Uzi Landman’s work was highlighted by Science magazine, and Dr. Zangwill’s book is cited by the Encyclopedia Britannica as having made a “significant contribution to learning and understanding.” We should not focus too much on the successes of individuals. Good programs require large numbers of people contributing their time and effort to all aspects of the work ranging from the back-room operations to the highly visible actions that bring external recognition. The writer wishes only to leave the impression that by the early 1990s the School had considerable recognition outside its research areas and that recognition was vastly superior to its reputation a decade or more earlier.

During the period 1978–1991 there was a continuing change in the background of our graduate student population. Going back to the 1960s the recruitment of graduate students was almost entirely from white, Southern, males. Physics did give Ph.D.s to one Asian and one Venezuelan before say 1970; that was the extent of the foreign involvement. We then made a deliberate attempt to recruit Ph.D. students from Europe. The move failed. One Englishman came to Tech and left after two years saying he did not like Southern “girls.” We recruited an Asian from Germany who settled in to become the longest Ph.D. ever granted in Physics at Tech (16 years); he had no incentive to finish and leave Tech because his country disappeared after he had departed from Asia. In the 1970s we began to see many applications from students resident in Asia, mostly from China. This was a nationwide phenomenon. Initially there were attempts to stem the flow of foreign Ph.D. students. There was a limit placed that the overseas student enrolment in a School should not exceed 25% of the total number of students. There was considerable faculty concern about these trends. In essence students who graduated from American Physics B.Sc. programs were not interested in Physics Graduate School. On analysis it was apparent that the development of quality Ph.D. programs in Engineering Schools was drawing away many graduates of science programs. Graduation rates in Physics remained at historic levels; the fraction moving into professional Schools did not change. The problem was that the students were rejecting Physics! This situation was of course a nationwide phenomenon.  Eventually the Engineering programs were also inundated with foreign applications. (These days we have given up worrying about it.)

Throughout the period 1978-1991 the complement of undergraduate majors remained basically unchanged. Physics has always attracted some of the most able of the freshman students. In many years the average SAT scores of the entering Physics Freshmen was higher than for any other School at Tech. There was always a large flow of students who change majors in the first two years. Physics suffers badly from this. The writer suspects that many students write down Physics as their major because it was their favorite high school subject. After students arrive at Tech and discover the wealth of opportunities in the Engineering Schools, they transfer out of Physics. Fortunately there are about equal number of students who transfer out of Engineering and into Physics. So generally the number of graduates in a year was about equal to the number of freshman four years earlier–but the people changed! During the period there was no perceptible change to the makeup of the undergraduate student cohort. They were mostly male, almost entirely Caucasian, and generally from the southern part of the USA. During this period there was a distinct Institutional policy (or perhaps Board of Regents Policy) that overseas students whose parents were not resident in the USA should not be admitted into the undergraduate program. Throughout this period there was concern by the Institution and by the Profession as a whole that both women and Afro-Americans were under-represented in the student cohort throughout the USA. Significant effort was expended in the recruitment of these students. The numbers of women students crept gradually upwards. The number of African American students remained very low.

The largest single program of the School in this period was its teaching of “Introductory Physics” to all freshman. This was a three quarter course sequence with a laboratory. The course was required by all Engineering and Science majors. In 1978 the course occupied 6 credit hours, five based on the lecture classes and one hour for the three hour lab. By 1991 one hour had been shaved off the lecture-based part of the course. An algebra-based version of the course, without a lab, was a requirement for students in the Architecture program; this had a rather small enrolment. These introductory courses covered approximately two thousand students per year.  This is a major logistical exercise. It also represented a major source of income to the Institution as a whole. The writer worked out the value of this course to the coffers of the Institution by calculating the amount earned based on the cost per hour charged to an out-of-state student. It came to a figure of well over 4 million dollars. This greatly exceeded the amount of money and effort devoted to teaching the course and indeed exceeded the whole budget of the School. The students were divided into groups of 150 and a single faculty member taught each group the lecture part of the class. In good years the faculty member might get the assistance of a grader, in tight years maybe not. The laboratory part of the course was operated as an unconnected enterprise with one faculty member in charge of each of the three lab courses and the day-to-day supervision being performed by Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) or, too frequently, Undergraduate Teaching Assistants (UTAs). There was no real co-ordination between the faculty teaching the course. Faculty simply taught whatever part of the curriculum they felt they could manage and determined their own standards for awarding grades. This was an unsatisfactory situation. For one thing some faculty would teach only one half of the stated curriculum of the first course. So, students embarking on the second course of the sequence were ill-prepared and not all at the same level. There also were great concerns being expressed by the faculty of Engineering Schools who were sending us their students. Under the leadership of Jim Tanner, Physics took a grip on this unwieldy program in 1982.

Basically Dr. Tanner took over management of the program. Faculty continued to teach students in 150 person groups, and there continued to be the laboratory program. But Dr. Tanner wrote a detailed syllabus for everybody to follow. This included class room material and homeworks. He also prepared tests to be administered every couple of weeks, and he graded all the tests. The laboratory structure was changed to follow the new curriculum. The tests, inevitably perhaps, became multiple choice and were graded by a computer. Dr. Tanner wrote all the questions and developed a scheme for assessing the likely scores on a question; in this way he could write ten tests which all involved different questions but were almost certain to produce the same distribution of scores. The laboratory experience complemented the course and when, later, the course hours were reduced then some of the learning material was moved into the laboratory period. Dr. Tanner did not allow anybody to fall out of sequence, and soon all faculty were in lock step. He even assigned the letter grades at the end of the quarter. In the short term most of the faculty and students loved the new program. The faculty were particularly happy that they did not need to worry about any of the administrative parts of the program. Syllabi, homework, and testing were all handled by Dr. Tanner and a couple of assistants. The faculty were left with only the lecture period–something most of them rather enjoyed. However, over time there were complaints. Eventually any program will grow stale. Faculty complained that the multiple choice questions did not explore learning and knowledge, and the curriculum moved too fast. But when the faculty were invited to organize something different, the discussions tended to come to an end. During my period as Director I made it clear that any faculty member who wanted to handle things differently was at liberty to do so. The class was their responsibility.  When the faculty person looked at the logistical problem of producing syllabi, tests, grading systems, etc., they found the problem daunting. Nobody actually proposed doing anything different, and the program continued long beyond 1991. Some faculty had honest and deep rooted objections to what we were doing. Persons such as Bill Woolf (the last non-Ph.D. teacher left in the School), a superb teacher, just felt that the sophomore classes did not treat the students in a professional manner. He could function in the system but hated it. Eventually he took an early retirement, and the School lost one of its best teachers. A major problem, over the years, with this program was that it was been impossible to persuade faculty to contribute their energy to upgrading the program. Inevitably the program became the responsibility of one faculty member (Jim Tanner) who gave up all other types of contribution to the School. The program suffered through having a limited range of input.

The School tried a number of variations on the teaching of the “Introductory Physics” sequence. For many years the School operated a “Self Paced” learning program. In this the student is given a curriculum and a text book and told to “learn it in their own speed.” In the academic quarter there are a total of about 13 tests, called “gates,” that the student must pass in sequence. Fail a test and you must repeat it, over and over again until you “got it.” The tests can be taken at any time and eventually on a given day of the quarter the supervisor may have students needing to take any one of the thirteen “gates.” This was another logistical nightmare.  The program was originally designed by Jim Tanner and for much of its later life was operated by Harry Dulaney. When Dr. Dulaney retired, faculty were asked to take it over. Nobody wanted to do it, and the program stopped. A second variation was the so-called “Restart” program. There has always been a problem with the large numbers of students who fail these classes, often due to poor incoming preparation. Dr. Tanner devised a program where students with poor preparation were identified in the first few weeks of the quarter and then invited to pull out of the normal course and join “Restart.” Here they were “restarted” on the course as a whole and given some intensive remedial work on background. The student did not actually finish the course and receive a grade until the following quarter. Dr. Tanner found ways of overcoming the logistical problems that this delay in grades caused. The restart program was operated in small groups under GTA supervisions. Students loved it!! Class size was small, instructors were good, and grades went up. Students who had expected to fail managed to get rather good letter grades.  Students developed vast enthusiasm for “restart” and clamoured to be allowed to join the program. One could envisage that all students would want to be “restarted” and that, of course, could not be. It was decided to restrict restart to the first class, Mechanics. Then after a couple of years Dr. Tanner decided that he had done enough, and if the program was worthwhile, then somebody else should take it over. There were no volunteers. Restart ended in 1978-1979.

After the Restart program ended, the School started again to offer an “Honors” version of the Introductory Physics curriculum. This had the same basic curriculum as the regular course but in greater depth and with an extra hour credit. The classes were small, and we chose well regarded teachers to handle the course. Physics and Electrical Engineering majors with good grades were invited to participate. The hope was that the course would help recruit students into the program. This objective was moderately successful.

Throughout its history the School has allowed its undergraduate students considerable freedom in choice of courses with a large number of “elective” hours. Students contemplating graduate school in Physics would mostly use the hours to take suitable preparatory courses. But many students did not use the freedom wisely. In 1982 the School attempted to bring some direction to the elective hours by defining a list of subject areas to which students could usefully devote their elective hours. And for each of the areas we provided a list of proposed courses– both in the School and in other units. The list of subject areas was

  • Acoustics
  • Biophysics
  • Computational Physics
  • Computer Based Instrumentation
  • Optics
  • Solid State Physics
  • Physics Graduate School Preparation

Biophysics was chosen because it represented a developing interdisciplinary area where students might consider graduate school. Georgia Tech already had a number of faculty with interests in this area (particularly Doctors Wartell, Fox, O’Shea, and Dusenberry). It was an area where undergraduate degrees were almost non-existent. Physics Graduate School Preparation was there because many of our better students fully intended to go to Graduate School. The other subjects were there because they represented areas where a student, with only a B.S. degree, might have excellent employment opportunities. The concept also matched well with our existing B.S.  degree in Applied Physics. Obviously some of these tracks were Applied Physics, and a person taking these courses really should have undertaken the BSAP degree. In general it was possible for a student to accomplish two of these tracks during their degree program. The provision of designated “tracks” for use of the electives was a great success. Most of our students undertook one or two complete tracks. The Graduate School track was of course very successful and attracted the students who should take it. The Optics track was also hugely successful over the years. This owes much to the enthusiasm with which Dr. O’Shea and other faculty developed the Optics program in the following years. The design of the track also coincided with an explosive growth of employment opportunities in the optics industry. Employers were looking for our students in the Optics track. The field was also becoming an established academic subject area with degree programs in a small number of Institutions. We were able to compete with the leaders in the field without the trouble of setting up a degree program. Acoustics and Computer Based Instrumentation also received significant student interest. The other areas were not really successful in attracting students.

In 1983 the Institute introduced a qualification known as a “Certificate” in an area. This had no legal significance, was not specifically authorized by the Board of Regents, and could be given only in connection with a regular degree. A certificate was almost like a minor in a subject area. It differed in being easier to set up, and it sounded more important!! Dr. O’Shea seized upon the Certificate concept for the Optics program, and in 1985 started to offer the certificate as recognition of completing the “Optics” track. Employers in the optics industry recognized our Certificate as denoting a well trained individual who would make an excellent employee. A Certificate in “Computer Based Instruction” was also created but never received student interest.

The Ph.D. program tended to be the main educational focus of most faculty. A School could not have a Ph.D. program without graduate students. The recruitment and retention of such students was a major challenge for the School throughout this period. In his report for 1978-79, Dr. Charlie Braden (as Acting Director) wrote that the main problems facing the whole School were:

  • Inadequate numbers of graduate students,
  • Poor quality of graduate students actually recruited,
  • Inadequate stipends for graduate students.

Dr. Braden repeated these same concerns for each of the three subsequent years when he was Acting Director. When this writer took over stewardship of the School, the two largest budget items over which the Director had any control at all were telephone bills and graduate student stipends. Both were excessive and annually exceeded the amounts budget. Taking out half the telephones from the building was an easy solution to one of the problems. But the graduate student situation proved more difficult.

Much effort was expended in recruiting Ph.D. students and bringing them to graduation.  The student entered, spent a year or two taking basic courses, and then took the “Comprehensive Exam” that acted as a qualifying exam. If he or she passed the exam then the student was supposed to pick a research supervisor and perform the research that led to the writing of a thesis. The whole process was personal to each student. There were huge variations in the time taken by students at each stage. There was attrition at each stage so that typically fewer than half the students who entered the program finished with a Ph.D. Consequently the program was difficult to manage. The Faculty of the School expected that the School would provide financial support for the student in the years before the student passed the qualifying examination. This support could be either as a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) with duties in the undergraduate teaching program or as a Graduate Research Assistant (GRA) where the student was required to devote themselves to one of the research activities of the School. After the qualifying exam some faculty were happy to take on students as GRAs funded by their grants and contracts. But a large number of faculty did not have grants which included student support or, in some cases, declined to use the available money for student support. As a result the School often found itself being asked to fund students as GTAs or GRAs for the whole of their Ph.D. program which might last five to seven years. When the writer became Director in early 1982, the School had funds to support about 20 students as GTAs. Some of the students had been on GTA stipends for five or more years (one had been on and off GTA funds for sixteen years!!!). The School had about 30 students supported on State funds. The difference of ten positions was made up by the Director running his School budget into a deficit; the Dean bailed him out with funds taken from other units in the College. The Institution was not at all happy with the deficit financing, and the Dean informed the Director that this could not continue. The obvious first step was to reduce the time that a student spent in the program. That way one could have more students on the same money.  The faculty made a general rule that a student would undertake the qualifying examination at the start of their second year and choose a research advisor within a few months. In theory a student would not be financially supported by the School after the first year; but in practice the number of faculty providing GRA positions remained inadequate.

To break the impasse the administration of Tech proposed in 1983, to identify work positions in GTRI (then called the Engineering Experiment Station) and assign students to those positions. So the larger burden of supporting first year students was to be shifted to GTRI. The co-ordinator on the GTRI side was to be Jim Wiltse, a physicist. Generally students were placed in groups where the work was real “physics.” Some students found the experience excellent. The group leaders took a real interest in the students and devised interesting work duties. The students were engaged in real research rather than supervising undergraduate teaching labs. With the work of GTRI being so “mission oriented,” the students could see the importance of the project and its relevance to society. Very soon we were asked whether students could continue in GTRI after the qualifying examination and perform their Ph.D. research under the supervision of a GTRI employee. This was agreed. The GTRI employees were listed on our faculty rosters by their Research Scientist titles and considered to be Associated Faculty members. Quite a number of students worked with Chris Summers on microelectronic device materials problems; Dr.  Summers is now a full Professor in Tech’s School of Material Science and Engineering. Students also worked with physical chemists R.V. Ravishankara and Paul Wine on problems related to atmospheric chemistry. Dr. Ravishankara is now a Laboratory Director at NOAA Boulder and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Wine is a Professor in our own School of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Thus the Research Scientists who supervised Ph.D.s in GTRI all went on to illustrious academic careers. In addition to students who performed their Ph.D.s with GTRI personnel, there were others who stayed in GTRI for the whole of their Ph.D. careers but, under a Physics faculty member, performed research that was completely unrelated to their GTRI work. Interestingly, after graduation, their careers generally were based on their GTRI experience rather than their Ph.D. research. There was a particular need for the GTRI program in 1985. Dr. Henry Valk had been given the responsibility for increasing the size of the entering class and doubled it for the 1985 entering class!! Overall the GTRI program was a success, and it continued until 1992. Pressure on the School’s finances was reduced. The research opportunities available to students were broadened. We graduated more students than would have been possible under own resources. Some faculty were very unhappy about the scheme. They felt that students were in the School of Physics and should be managed in the School. The real difficulty was that Faculty in the School of Physics did not, collectively, provide the number of funded GRA positions that the size of the program required. It is worth noting that the idea of students performing research in GTRI was not new. In the 1960s faculty such as Doctors Martin, McDaniel, Thomas, Scheibner, and Young all worked primarily in GTRI (then called EES) and handled many graduate students within their GTRI projects. Indeed some of the most successful Ph.D. graduates of the 1960s (e.g., Albritton, Mosely, Ford, and Carl Lineberger whose degree was actually in EE) performed their research in this way.

The writer feels bound to make some kind of historical review of the research programs of the School and their development from 1978 to 1992. This he does with trepidation. Research at Tech is a very personal activity, and, it is the writer’s experience, Faculty do not like other people attempting to discuss their work. Nevertheless the writer would like to list the various areas of activity and point out where each faculty member fitted. In the writer’s experience from 1964 to the end of the period under review, 1991, Tech always encouraged individuals rather than groups or programs. A faculty member was awarded a position, a small (and inadequate) start up fund, then told to “get on with it,” and come back with a good resume when it was time for a decision on tenure and promotion. By the tenure decision a faculty member was supposed to be bringing in enough research grants to cover their own research expenditures. That included support of graduate students and of any required technical services. There was never any real attempt to create scientific groups or to encourage sharing of facilities. Co-operation between faculty occurred as needed. There were obvious “concentrations” of activity in certain areas but not working groups. The Tech system encouraged individuality and self-sufficiency. And through to the early 1990s that is what we got. Also many of our faculty were active in novel, cross-disciplinary, or emerging areas. Some faculty contributed to more than one area; in particular some of our theoreticians had very broad talents. So it is difficult to place some people into specific categories. The School’s mix of research subject areas was always unusual.  In 1978 the School’s Research Areas (areas where there is more than one faculty member active) were broadly classified as

  • Nuclear Physics
  • Atomic Physics
  • Solid State Physics
  • Biophysics.

Of these, Biophysics was relatively new at that time and was somewhat unusual. The other three areas were of course quite conventional and were found in most Schools of Physics in the USA.  By 1992 the School’s Research Areas were

  • Atomic Physics
  • Optics
  • Solid State Physics
  • Non-Linear Systems
  • Biophysics.

Optics and Non Linear Systems had developed in the period. Both these and Biophysics were unusual programs for Schools of Physics in 1992. In addition to these identifiable areas there were in 1992 (and to a lesser extent in 1978) a number of faculty whose research did not fall under these headings.

The Optics program was a very successful development spearheaded by Dr. Don O’Shea who initially came to us as a person interested in Biophysics and using optics as a research tool.  Recognizing that Optics was a developing subject, Dr. O’Shea initiated instructional programs in the field and developed his own reputation as a specialist in the area. In 1982 Dr. Rajarshi Roy joined the School. Dr. Roy used lasers to study atomic physics processes. His focus was on how the noise and statistical fluctuations in laser beams influenced the measurement of a process. He was expected to contribute to the Atomic Physics area. In practice he developed his interests in laser noise, and his work added strength to the developing Optics program. In 1988 Dr. Kevin O’Donnell joined the School. Dr. O’Donnell developed a successful research program to study light scattering. In 1999 he resigned from Tech to take a position with a Mexican University. A major motivation for his leaving was that the Mexican university was on a Pacific Beach!! In 1990 we were joined by Dr. Brian Kennedy who developed a theoretical program. During the period, a number of faculty in area of atomic and molecular physics were using lasers as research tools and also contributed to the program.

The Non-Linear program owes much to the tenacity of Dr. Joe Ford. In the early 1980s he preached about the importance of non-linear phenomena to physics. He very effectively transmitted his enthusiasm to a broad audience. Other faculty, notably Doctors Fox and Roy, recognized the importance of non-linear phenomena in their own fields and contributed further to the visibility of Tech’s activity. In 1986 we hired Dr. Kurt Wiesenfeld specifically to contribute to this area. Externally the area was well regarded and often was seen as a focussed research effort. In 1991 the School had only Doctors Ford and Wiesenfeld making the field their primary focus. Other faculty recognized the importance of non-linear phenomena to their own subjects.

Atomic and Molecular Physics in 1978 had three components. The first was the long established collaboration of Doctors Weatherly and Williams in the area of microwave spectroscopy of molecules. The second was the study of atomic collisions with experimental programs being carried out by Doctors McDaniel, Martin, and Thomas with a theoretical program by Dr. Flannery. Third was a theoretical study of complex molecular systems by Professor Bill Harter. By 1982 the work of Doctors Williams and Weatherly had come to an end.  In a sense all molecules capable of study by their techniques had “been done.” Dr. James Gole, a physical chemist, transferred from Chemistry to Physics in 1983. He provided an activity in complex molecules and their reactions. In part this was seen as a potential interaction with the theoretical work of Dr. Harter. Then, in 1986, Dr. Harter resigned from Tech. Thus the molecular part of the program faded away and by 1992 was based solely on the experimental work of Dr.  Gole. The ion molecule interactions research of Dr. McDaniel was very active in 1978 and benefited from the active support of two other faculty, Drs. Gatland and Martin. By about 1982 all the reactions capable of study with the existing equipment “had been done,” and the program came to an end. In 1978 Dr. Thomas was active in the study of high-energy atom-atom and atom-surface collisions using three ion beam facilities. By 1992 this activity had contracted to a study of surface compositions using ion beam collisions. Over the years there were attempts to bring new faculty into the Atomic Collisions programs. When Dr. Roy joined the School in 1982 he was seen as a member of the “Atomic Collisions” program. But in practice his work rapidly moved towards the study of laser beams and their fluctuations. Dr. Peter Schultz joined the School in 1982 and provided an experimental study of reaction rates. But this program was not a success, and Dr. Schultz resigned in 1988. Dr. Margaret Graaff joined Physics in 1988 to perform work in high temperature ion molecule reactions. This program was also not very fruitful and she left. On the theoretical side Dr. Ray Flannery maintained a very active program in various aspects of atomic collisions. In 1984 he was joined by Dr. Turgay Uzer who remains with in Physics to this day. Thus in the period under review, the Atomic and Molecular Physics area of the School declined somewhat, particularly in the area of experimental studies. In the view of the writer (who contributed to this part of the School’s programs), this mirrored the general fate of the field. In many respects Atomic and Molecular Physics had come to a high degree of maturity in the 1970s and 1980s and was no longer a hotbed of study.

In 1978 the Solid State Physics program was based on experimental work of Doctors Stevenson, Schiebner, and Young, plus the theoretical program of Dr. Uzi Landman. Dr.  Stevenson’s work was not very active since he devoted himself primarily to being School Director for many years. Work was continued for a while by two Research Scientists, Doctors Legg and Ribarsky, who were originally supported by Dr. Stevenson but who had, by 1978, developed their own independent research support. The activities of Dr. Schiebner on Auger Spectroscopy were entirely in EES and made little impact on the School; he retired in 1985. In 1978 Dr. Ray Young’s large X-Ray spectroscopy group were mostly located in EES. Over a period of years he shifted towards Physics and around 1982 the work was entirely in the basement of the Howey Building, and Dr. Young had become a full time member of the School.  He retired in 1989. In 1978 Dr. Uzi Landman was the School’s only theoretician in this area and had a substantial reputation for his work using the technique of molecular dynamic simulations.  The program was the largest user of computer time on the Campus. In 1991 the program was continuing at full strength and the computer facilities were provided remotely by the National Labs that sponsored his work. In the thirteen year period 1978-1991, the School hired a number of faculty into this area. Dr. David Grider joined us in 1983 to perform experimental work on the reactivity of surface defects. The work never reached its full potential, and Dr. Grider resigned in 1987. Dr. Ahmet Erbil joined us in 1985 and was best known for developing programs in low temperature materials. Dr. Phil First came in 1989 to set up experimental programs. Dr. Ed Conrad came in 1991 and brought us experimental activities at National Synchrotron facilities.  We were also joined by two theoreticians: Andy Zangwill in 1985 and Mei Yin Chou in 1989. At the end of the period under review (1991) the area of Solid State Physics included as faculty Doctors Conrad, First, and Erbil as experimentalists and Doctors Landman, Zangwill, and Chou as theoreticians.

The only research activity to function as a significant “group” was the program in Nuclear Physics. This was headed by Doctors Wyly and Braden and involved gamma ray decay schemes of radioactive materials. In 1978 the group included also Doctors Patronis and Dulaney (both Ph.D. graduates of the group), Mr. Kendrick (who had intended to get a Ph.D. in the group but had not been successful), and Dr. Brewer (a theoretician). The group had been a major producer of Ph.D.s for the School and was its first well known research program. Eventually the activity fell into decline. A major problem was that the work was performed at Tech on radioactive materials. The isotope needed to have a sufficiently long half life that it could be transported from Oak Ridge to Tech before the activity became negligible. After all such isotopes had been studied there was nothing left to do! The group could have transferred activity to a distant facility such as Oak Ridge but there was no interest in a “commuting” research strategy. Around 1978 the group has no research funds and ceased to publish. All its members remained active in various capacities. Dr. Patronis was a renowned expert on acoustics and taught courses on the subject. Mr. Kendrick ran a very popular set of courses on electronics and interfacing computers; he took early retirement in 1979 to join a local computer company. Later in the period under review the School was joined by Dr. John Wood whose research involve the analysis of nuclear decay data obtained at large scale remote facilities, such as Oak Ridge. Dr.  Wood worked as a Research Scientist for Professor Dick Fink in Chemistry. Dr. Wood had his own funding and asked to transfer to Physics. We agreed. After a couple of years he was asked to teach an undergraduate course on Nuclear Physics, and in 1985 he accepted a position as Associate Professor in the School. In 1992 Dr. Wood represented our sole activity in Nuclear Physics.

The Biophysics program in 1978 included Doctors Fox, Wartell, and Dusenberry.  Professors Wartell and Dusenberry both had part time positions in Biology. Roger Wartell maintained his research facilities in Physics and was a very active member of the School. Dr.  Dusenberry’s time was mostly assigned to Biology, and Physics benefited very little from his activities. Dr. Fox was a person with very broad interests, and Biophysics was only one of many areas to which he made a contribution over the years. The only significant change to this program over the years under review is that in 1986 we hired Tai-Huang Huang who brought with him a well established program in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance studies of biological systems. His aim was to perform NMR studies at the spatial resolution of the membrane of a living cell. The program was quite successful as a general NMR research study of materials, but the potential for the study of biological samples was not realized. Dr. Tai Huang resigned from Tech in 1993.

In addition to these major groupings of faculty there were a number of active individuals whose research activities were unique within the School and not readily classified within one of the major “areas.” Dr. Hal Gersch, a very senior faculty member, performed research related to solid state physics and statistical mechanics. He retired in 1987 but stayed on the faculty listing for a further two years while he undertook two visiting academic positions. Dr. David Finkelstein, who joined the School as Director in 1978, was very active and visible in the field of “grand unification theories” and other very fundamental studies. Dr. Martin Ahrens maintained a steady output of significant papers regarding neutrinos and their mass. Dr. Ahrens retired in 1992. Dr. Henry Valk, who moved from the Dean’s position to Physics in 1982, had general theoretical interests with some bias towards nuclear physics problems. Dr. Ron Fox was regarded as providing one of these unique individual activities; he made contributions to some of the major thrusts of the School and also had other broad ranging interests. One should also include Dr. Jim Tanner whose interests were in “Education” and the measurement of educational success. It is interesting to note that all of these people are theoreticians.

In 1991, the end of the period under review, the Institution as a whole was in a state of turmoil due to some of the actions of the President, Pat Crecine. Problems at the top tended to exacerbate problems lower down the structure. There was a feeling within the School that it was time for a change. In Spring 1991 the writer resigned from the position of Director, and Dr.  Henry Valk seamlessly took over the stewardship of the School’s affairs.