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James Mitchell

Research chemist James W. Mitchell was born on November 16, 1943 in Durham, North Carolina as the eldest and only son of tobacco factory workers. Mitchell’s interest in chemistry stemmed from the disciplines logical principles and their reliability. Mitchell received his B.S. degree in chemistry from North Carolina A & T State University in 1965, and his Ph.D. degree in chemistry from Iowa State University in 1970. His doctoral thesis focused on analytical chemistry, a branch of chemistry concerned with analyzing the characteristics and composition of matter.

Mitchell first joined AT & T Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey after receiving his doctorate. He chaired the Lab’s Affirmative Action Committee and was one of the founders of the Association of Black Laboratory Employees. In 1982, Mitchell was promoted to supervisor of the Inorganic Analytical Chemistry Research Group. Mitchell became head of the Analytical Chemistry Research Department in 1975. Under his leadership the department was transformed into an internationally renowned research organization. In 1985, Mitchell was named an AT & T Bell Laboratories Fellow, and, in 1989 he was extended membership into the National Academy of Engineering. He has written nearly 100 publications with as many citations attached to his work. He earned the 1999 Lifetime Achievement in Industry Award by the National Society of Black Engineers.

In 2002, Mitchell began his tenure at Howard University. He served as the David and Lucille Packard Professor of Materials Science, Director of the CREST Nanoscale Analytical Sciences Research and Education Center, Professor of Chemical Engineering, and Dean of the College of Engineering. Mitchell has also lectured internationally. In addition, he co-authored a book, Contamination Control in Trace Analysis, published more than seventy-five scientific papers, and invented instruments and processes. He also served as a member of the editorial advisory boards of Analytical Chemistry and Mikrochimica Acta. Mitchell and his wife Jean live in Washington, D.C. They have three children.

James W. Mitchell was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 11, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.236

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/11/2012

Last Name

Mitchell

Maker Category
Middle Name

W

Occupation
Schools

North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University

Iowa State University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

James

Birth City, State, Country

Durham

HM ID

MIT13

Favorite Season

Holiday Season

State

North Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Alaskan Cruises

Favorite Quote

When times get tough, the tough get going.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

11/16/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Turkey, Greens (Collard), Fish, Barbecue

Short Description

Chemist James Mitchell (1943 - ) was the first African American honored as an AT&T Bell Laboratories Fellow, and is the Dean of the College of Engineering at Howard University.

Employment

Bell Laboratories

Lucent Technologies

Howard University College of Engineering

CREST Nanoscale Analytical Sciences Research and Education center

Favorite Color

Gold, Purple, Red, White

Timing Pairs
310,0:4470,95:5350,111:6310,131:6630,136:7270,150:9110,189:10310,208:15672,263:22832,332:23781,347:24365,356:25241,370:25679,377:32120,416:34760,468:35880,487:36600,502:36920,507:37240,512:38200,525:38840,534:39480,543:40200,554:42200,587:47750,630:49270,656:50150,672:53670,726:55910,761:58230,784:59270,799:60310,813:61270,827:61590,832:66579,850:67492,863:68239,872:68571,877:69733,894:70231,901:71900,928:72593,940:73097,950:73601,959:74042,967:75428,992:75995,1002:76562,1014:78011,1043:78641,1104:84833,1129:89948,1225:98063,1312:103076,1342:105169,1372:111930,1410:112262,1415:112677,1421:116635,1444:117145,1451:121410,1486:121766,1491:126928,1562:127284,1567:127818,1572:128708,1584:129153,1590:135470,1647:135926,1654:136458,1663:138054,1689:139422,1712:141980,1719:142360,1724:143025,1733:151406,1803:153494,1830:155495,1857:160280,1915:161498,1930:166066,1956:173326,2113:173590,2118:180270,2203:181020,2215:181545,2224:182070,2236:185032,2252:185402,2258:185846,2265:187178,2286:188140,2300:189028,2313:189694,2323:192358,2364:192654,2369:193024,2375:193690,2385:197728,2406:200968,2470:201256,2475:201688,2482:202912,2503:203488,2513:204496,2528:205504,2553:209827,2577:211681,2593:212196,2599:221466,2679:222048,2686:222436,2691:223212,2700:224182,2713:225928,2737:227770,2742$0,0:8907,32:10041,51:18951,164:23498,179:26427,214:29815,246:33222,274:34671,303:34923,308:37210,323:44237,393:45013,403:47147,424:50932,444:54663,484:56895,512:57546,521:59499,540:59964,546:61917,573:67638,614:70992,654:71850,667:78222,723:80242,751:83582,779:87023,803:87451,808:88414,818:89591,835:93110,861:95407,879:96208,890:96742,897:99224,927:99763,935:103151,979:105230,1015:105846,1024:106924,1045:108310,1072:108926,1082:109927,1098:110389,1106:118830,1184:119570,1195:124422,1230:131730,1262:132094,1267:133277,1283:136752,1310:138026,1325:139104,1337:140084,1348:140476,1353:140868,1358:143612,1388:155430,1457:156022,1462:157370,1469
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of James Mitchell's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - James Mitchell lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - James Mitchell describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - James Mitchell describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - James Mitchell talks about how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - James Mitchell describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - James Mitchell describes his childhood neighborhood

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - James Mitchell talks about his family

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - James Mitchell talks about his parents' separation and reconciliation

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - James Mitchell describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - James Mitchell describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - James Mitchell talks about his elementary schools

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - James Mitchell talks about his elementary school

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - James Mitchell talks about his natural ability of taking things apart and reassembling them

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - James Mitchell talks about what influenced him while growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - James Mitchell talks about his involvement in church

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - James Mitchell talks about his interest in music

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - James Mitchell talks about growing up in Durham, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - James Mitchell talks about his childhood jobs

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - James Mitchell talks about the importance of education

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - James Mitchell talks about the book rent policy in North Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - James Mitchell talks about his father's return after a long absence

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - James Mitchell talks about his relationship with his mother

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - James Mitchell talks about his experience at the summer science program at North Carolina Central University

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - James Mitchell talks about his high school experience

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - James Mitchell talks about his decision to attend North Carolina A&T University

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - James Mitchell talks about his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement (part one)

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - James Mitchell talks about his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement (part two)

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - James Mitchell talks about the segregation at North Carolina A&T State University

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - James Mitchell talks about his mentors at North Carolina A&T State University

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - James Mitchell talks about his college experience

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - James Mitchell talks about his summer employment during college

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - James Mitchell talks about his decision to attend Iowa State University for his Ph.D. degree

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - James Mitchell talks about his friend, Dr. Reginald Mitchner

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - James Mitchell talks about his experience at Iowa State University and his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - James Mitchell talks about his experience at Iowa State University

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - James Mitchell describes his dissertation on the separation of rare earth elements

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - James Mitchell talks about the practical applications of his research on the separation of rare earth elements

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - James Mitchell talks about his employment prospects after graduating from Iowa State University

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - James Mitchell talks about the assassinations of prominent figures during the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - James Mitchell talks about the work environment at Bell Laboratories

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - James Mitchell talks about his work at Bell Laboratories

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - James Mitchell talks about his patents

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - James Mitchell talks about his professional activities and awards

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - James Mitchell talks about AT&T Bell Laboratories' merger with Lucent Technologies

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - James Mitchell talks about his mentorship activities at Bell Laboratories

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - James Mitchell talks about his colleagues at Bell Laboratories/Lucent Technologies

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - James Mitchell talks about his career at Howard University

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - James Mitchell talks about his goals for the college of engineering at Howard University

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - James Mitchell describes the challenges he faces as dean of the college of engineering

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - James Mitchell talks about his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - James Mitchell reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - James Mitchell reflects on his life choices

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - James Mitchell talks about his family

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - James Mitchell talks about his parents' reaction to his success

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - James Mitchell shares his advice for young people

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - James Mitchell talks about how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$6

DAStory

4$5

DATitle
James Mitchell talks about the work environment at Bell Laboratories
James Mitchell talks about his goals for the college of engineering at Howard University
Transcript
Okay, so, and so, after graduating in 1970, so you joined Bell Labs [Bell Laboratories]. Now, this is, as you said, Bell Labs has been touted by the people we've interviewed as one of the greatest places to work. Of course, the culture is destroyed now, but at that time, it was a scientist's dream.$$It absolutely was one of the best corporate research facilities on Planet Earth. It was run by managers who had first been accomplished scientists themselves. You didn't get to be a manager at the AT&T Bell Laboratories Research Facility unless you were an extraordinary researcher first. And so the people in charge of the place understood what was necessary in an environment in order for it to be essentially perfect from the standpoint of supporting, fostering and allowing scientific and technological excellence to take place. I had the blessings of enjoying Bell Laboratories for thirty years. It was the type of environment where you couldn't believe that you were paid to do something that was so enjoyable and to do it under conditions that were so excellent.$$Yeah, it's hardly anyone that says something like that, but that's, those who talk about Bell Labs do speak that highly of it. So, for instance, what made it such an enjoyable place to work?$$Well, it was such an enjoyable place to work because money was not an obstacle to accomplishing the impossible. If a young person had an idea about something and it had a finite probability of being feasible, the only thing you had to do was convince the manager of your organization that this idea concept was worth pursuing and that if brought to fruition, its scientific impact would be extraordinary, and it was possible for you to do that. That could be done in a conversation and on one page. It didn't require a 300-page research proposal. So you could pursue extraordinary research ideas and so forth without exhaustive inputs and justifications before the fact. You had colleagues on your hallway who were experts in virtually all aspects of science and technology. You could learn in a thirty-minute conversation with one of your colleagues what would require you three months of digging through the literature and research in order to acquire the knowledge. You could almost instantly generate a collaboration with anyone, excellent people will collaborate at a finger snap with other excellent people. And you had access. If you indicated that you worked at Bell Laboratories, that almost immediately gave you access to collaborations with anybody else in the country. And so it was just an amazing place where the money, the infrastructure, the intellect, the vision and all of those things came together that allowed important science to be done.$Okay, so that's 2009. Now, so, just tell us about what you're doing as dean here and what your prospects are as well as for the college?$$As a dean, I believe the most important responsibility I have is to put in place the underpinnings and the structure of the College of Engineering such that in the next century we are able to implement, establish and grow entrepreneurships, intellectual property, technology parks and businesses. Howard University is not going to be a greater university than it has been until we have done what the other universities do, establish technology parks, establish intellectual property and have a gigantic foundation with funding sufficient for us to accomplish anything on our own, if necessary. And so I see my greatest goal is to lay the foundation for pursuing that long-term goal. And so we have, are in the midst of restructuring the college to pursue that. We are in the midst of working with the faculty to recruit entrepreneurial professors, individuals who see the business aspect of science as important as the knowledge aspect of science and who want to operate in both arenas. And my job is to hopefully work with the upper-level management here and transform the environment from one of teaching excellence with science done in addition to it, but one of scientific and engineering excellence that even surpasses by far the teaching legacy of excellence that we have. And so that's the unfinished job that exists.

Stephen McGuire

Nuclear physicist and physics professor Stephen C. McGuire was born on September 17, 1948 in New Orleans, Louisiana. McGuire was the first generation of his family to attend high school and college. McGuire’s parents were supportive of his education and inspired him to high achievements. By the time that McGuire graduated as valedictorian of his class at Joseph S. Clark Senior High in New Orleans, Louisiana, he knew that he wanted to pursue a career in physics. McGuire went on to attend Southern University and Agricultural and Mechanical (A&M) College on a four-year academic scholarship. He received his B.S. degree in physics, magna cum laude, in 1970. McGuire then continued his education at the University of Rochester where he studied under Professor Harry W. Fulbright and graduated with his M.S. degree in nuclear physics in 1974. In 1979, McGuire obtained his Ph.D. degree from Cornell University in nuclear science with a focus on low energy neutron physics under the guidance of Professor David D. Clark.

Between 1979 and 1982, McGuire conducted research as a staff scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. In 1982, McGuire joined the faculty at Alabama A&M University in the department of physics and applied physics, and he began research with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). McGuire was honored by NASA in 1987 with its Office of Technology Utilization Research Citation Award. While at Alabama A&M, he also served as a consultant to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the U.S. Department of Energy, and spent time as a physics researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). In 1989, he became the first African American faculty member at the endowed College of Engineering at Cornell University. In 1992, he became a charter fellow of the National Society of Black Physicists (NSBP). With research focusing on experimental nuclear physics and nuclear radiation and microelectronics, McGuire was appointed to be a visiting scientist at the Center for Neutron Research at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in 1998.

Since 1999, McGuire has served as professor and chair of the department of physics at Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. McGuire has pursued his interest in optical materials as part of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). During his tenure with the university, McGuire has led the establishment of the partnership between LIGO and Southern University and A&M College, and he served as the LIGO Scientific Collaboration Principal Investigator (PI). He considers this his greatest achievement. McGuire is a Fellow of the American Physical Society. He is married to the former Saundra E. Yancy. They have two adult daughters, Carla and Stephanie.

Stephen McGuire was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 18, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.187

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/18/2012

Last Name

McGuire

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Craig

Occupation
Schools

Joseph S. Clark Preparatory High School

Columbia University

University of California, Los Angeles

Southern University and Agricultural and Mechanical College

University of Rochester

Cornell University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Stephen

Birth City, State, Country

New Orleans

HM ID

MCG04

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Louisiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

Florida Keys

Favorite Quote

It is better to put your trust in God than to put confidence in men.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Louisiana

Birth Date

9/17/1948

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Baton Rouge

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Tilapia (Grilled), Rice (Brown), Vegetables

Short Description

Nuclear physicist Stephen McGuire (1948 - ) led the establishment of the partnership in materials research and science education between the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory and Southern University. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

Employment

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Stanford Linear Accelerator Center

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Alabama A&M State University

Cornell University

Southern University Baton Rouge

California Institute of Technology

Favorite Color

Gray

Timing Pairs
0,0:1319,5:3363,128:5188,181:14295,298:15945,328:16695,351:18270,391:18795,399:19695,415:22020,482:27109,501:28022,514:29931,550:33002,597:39003,688:39822,696:40641,707:50362,796:52560,814:53235,824:53610,830:57100,861:57424,868:57640,873:57856,879:58450,894:59152,909:60448,942:63858,986:64466,996:65454,1016:65910,1024:66366,1032:67734,1048:68874,1065:74352,1122:75054,1141:75486,1152:77214,1181:79222,1192:80358,1211:82275,1248:82843,1258:83553,1269:85560,1274:86366,1290:87873,1303:88422,1317:89337,1334:89764,1343:93440,1390:94496,1421:99946,1483:103176,1524:103448,1529:103720,1534:104128,1541:104536,1548:106110,1554:110974,1669:112126,1696:112510,1704:116478,1808:116734,1813:121166,1841:122231,1858:122586,1864:123225,1875:123722,1884:124290,1894:124716,1910:126491,1950:127343,1967:128124,1979:133450,2048$170,0:980,11:5300,164:5930,173:31834,541:32450,550:33506,570:33858,575:34474,584:34826,589:36498,619:39138,658:46515,775:46775,780:50805,852:63398,999:63714,1004:64899,1019:65768,1029:66242,1036:68914,1057:70024,1080:70320,1085:74168,1167:75204,1182:77720,1248:101234,1618:101522,1623:102170,1634:105986,1717:109860,1755
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Stephen McGuire's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Stephen McGuire lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Stephen McGuire describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Stephen McGuire describes how his parents met, and their early life in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Stephen McGuire talks about his mother's life in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Stephen McGuire describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Stephen McGuire talks about his father's hard work, and his parents' emphasis on education

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Stephen McGuire describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Stephen McGuire talks about his siblings and describes his childhood home in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Stephen McGuire describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Stephen McGuire talks about attending Mt. Zion Baptist Church as a child in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Stephen McGuire talks about his elementary school and the strong African American community in New Orleans

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Stephen McGuire talks about the quality of African American teachers found in the segregated schools in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Stephen McGuire talks about the teachers who influenced him in school in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Stephen McGuire talks about race relations, schools, libraries and how New Orleans differed from other Southern cities in terms of its segregation

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Stephen McGuire talks about the desegregation of high school sports in the New Orleans school system in the 1960s

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Stephen McGuire describes his childhood interests and how his introduction to NASA and space shuttles encouraged his interest in science and physics

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Stephen McGuire talks about his decision to study physics instead of playing college basketball

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Stephen McGuire talks about playing basketball in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Stephen McGuire talks about how he was influenced by his high school teachers

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Stephen McGuire describes why he chose Southern University for college

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Stephen McGuire talks about Felton Clark, the president of Southern University

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Stephen McGuire describes how he met his wife at Southern University

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Stephen McGuire talks about Dr. King's assassination and the moon landing

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Stephen McGuire talks about graduating from from Southern University and the prominent academicians and athletes who graduated from there

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Stephen McGuire describes his experience at the University of Rochester

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Stephen McGuire describes his decision to pursue a Ph.D. degree in nuclear science at Cornell University

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Stephen McGuire describes his master's degree research on f-p shell nuclides

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Stephen McGuire describes his Ph.D. dissertation research on spin-forbidden isomers in Uranium-236

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Stephen McGuire talks about Ithaca, New York, and describes his research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Stephen McGuire describes his experience at Alabama A&M University and at Marshall Space Flight Center

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Stephen McGuire describes his research at Cornell University on neutrons and x-rays, to understand the physics of materials

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Stephen McGuire describes his involvement in science education and minority education at Cornell University

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Stephen McGuire describes his experience as a visiting professor at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Stephen McGuire describes his decision to return to Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to chair the physics department - part one

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Stephen McGuire describes his decision to return to Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to chair the physics department - part two

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Stephen McGuire describes his decision to leave Cornell University in order to chair the physics department at Southern University

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Stephen McGuire explains the significance of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO)

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Stephen McGuire describes student involvement with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO)

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Stephen McGuire describes his involvement with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and other professional organizations

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Stephen McGuire talks about his goals for the future

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Stephen McGuire talks about the graduate program in physics at Southern University

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Stephen McGuire reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Stephen McGuire describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Stephen McGuire reflects upon his choices

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Stephen McGuire talks about his family

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Stephen McGuire describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Stephen McGuire talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Stephen McGuire describes his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$6

DAStory

7$1

DATitle
Stephen McGuire talks about the desegregation of high school sports in the New Orleans school system in the 1960s
Stephen McGuire explains the significance of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO)
Transcript
High school [Joseph S. Clark Senior High School, New Orleans, Louisiana]. Now, I don't want to get too far away from what your question is. In high school, I'll just give another example, I played basketball (clears throat). Now, you know, basketball is played out in the open on the playground courts in the city. So after while, you know, we go down to St. Aloysius [school] and we're playing basketball with just, you know, the white guys who were there. We're just playing just to have fun. Somebody saw this. We showed up one day and the basketball goal was taken away, cut off at the concrete and concreted over so we couldn't play basketball there anymore. Let me give you another example of just where we were in time. Today you take for granted interscholastic--interscholastic sports, okay, and Louisiana being integrated, no problem, okay. During that time, there were two schools in New Orleans. One was Jesuit and the other one was St. Augusta. St. Augusta was known for being a very strong school, even to this day, okay, academically and also athletically. Well the principals at these schools decided, "Look, we have to do something to break down this barrier of segregation in our schools. Let's do it by just simply playing a basketball game between our two schools, and making that a demonstration of what can happen without incident." St. Augusta at that time was the number one ranked school in the black league. Jesuit was the number one ranked school in the white league. They played that game behind closed doors successfully. St. Augusta won the game, okay. But they played it successfully--successfully. The parents of the players didn't come in and stage a protest. They had to play it behind closed doors because you couldn't just open it up it up--something like that to the public. But it demonstrated the basic principle, that two groups of kids, you know, with these similar interests, could get together, play a competitive basketball game appropriately refereed, and you not have an incident.$What's the significance of the research with LIGO [Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, in Livingston, Louisiana]? I mean, what are hoping we will find out about the, you know--I mean, there's a lot--lots of things we don't know or need to find out about, but what's the significance?$$But the idea behind LIGO is that, if we can in fact see this, when we see this gravitational radiation, you will see a new type of radiation. It's not electromagnetic, and it doesn't require its source to be hot and luminous. It can be cold and dark. So given the idea that the vast majority of the matter in the universe, 95 percent of it is cold and dark, then you have a chance of opening up a whole new window on this universe that we live in, if you can--when you make these detections. So you're bound to see, I believe, phenomena that we just don't know about right now. The other aspect of it that's extremely important is that, if you see the stochastic remnants of the big bang in your data, then you will have looked back further towards creation, that's never been done before in the history of mankind, and we anticipate that that in itself will yield valuable information in terms of our understanding of the evolution of the universe, as it turns out. So those two ideas that we're opening up a whole new window on the universe, I think--I think make for a strong or either a very compelling argument for this particular experiment. There's direct evidence that gravitational radiation exists and [Albert] Einstein was right. But we want make routine and direct measurements of this so as to just generate a body of data and knowledge that will help us move toward a deeper understanding of this universe that we live in. Right.

Michael Spencer

Electrical Engineer, Computer Scientist and Engineering Professor Michael G. Spencer was born on March 9, 1952 in Detroit, Michigan. Spencer’s passion for teaching is part of a family tradition, his mother and grandparents were teachers. He grew up in Washington, D.C. and travelled to Ithaca, New York to study at Cornell University. He earned his B.S. degree in 1974 and his M.S. degree in 1975. Spencer worked at Bell Laboratories from 1974 to 1977 before returning to Cornell to receive his Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering in 1981.
He joined the faculty of Howard University as an assistant professor in 1984. Spencer also founded the Materials Science Center for Excellence in 1984 and served as its director for the entirety of his career at Howard. He spent the next eighteen years working and researching at Howard, becoming a full professor in 1990 and the David and Lucile Packard Chaired Professor of Materials Science in 1999. During this time, Spencer also worked as a visiting scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)’s JET Propulsion Laboratory. In 1999, he returned to his alma mater, Cornell University as professor of electrical engineering. He served as associate dean of research and graduate studies for the College of Engineering from 2002 to 2008. Spencer directed the Wide Bandgap Laboratory where he researched semiconductor materials like Silicon Carbide (SiC) and Gallium Nitride (GaN), as well as two dimensional semiconductors like graphene. He co-founded Widetronix, a company that builds low power long life betavoltaic batteries. Spencer has written over 130 publications concerning semiconductors and has also co-authored eleven United States patents.

Spencer has received much recognition for his research and teaching. In 1985, he received the Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation. Spencer also received the QEM (Quality Education for Minorities) Giants of Science Award and the Allen Berman Research Publication Award from the Naval Research Laboratory. He served as one of the directors for the National Science Foundation (NSF) Nano-Fabrication Network. Spencer was a member of the program committee of the American Vacuum Society and the International Conference on Silicon Carbide and Related Materials. He also held memberships in the Electronic Materials Conference Organizing Committee and the Compound Semiconductor Symposium Organizing Committee. Spencer lives in Ithaca, New York.
Michael G. Spencer was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 5, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.158

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/5/2012

Last Name

Spencer

Middle Name

Gregg

Schools

Cornell University

New Hampton School

Jefferson Middle School Academy

La Salle Elementary School

Speakers Bureau

Yes

First Name

Michael

Birth City, State, Country

Detroit

HM ID

SPE63

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

Adults

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - $200-$300

Favorite Season

None

Speaker Bureau Notes

Honorarium $200-$300 (may be waived or negotiated depending on circumstance)

State

Michigan

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

3/9/1952

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Ithaca

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Electrical engineer, computer scientist, and engineering professor Michael Spencer (1952 - ) is a leader in materials science and holds eleven United States patents.

Employment

Bell Laboratories

Howard University

Cornell University

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Michael Spencer's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Michael Spencer lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Michael Spencer describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Michael Spencer talks about the Denmark Vesey Revolt

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Michael Spencer talks about the history of Charleston, South Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Michael Spencer talks about his ancestors in the Marines during the Revolutionary War

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Michael Spencer talks about his mother's childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Michael Spencer describes his mother's education

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Michael Spencer describes his father's family background

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Michael Spencer describes his paternal great-grandfather acquiring freedom and becoming a teacher

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Michael Spencer describes how his paternal great-grandfather became a shoemaker

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Michael Spencer talks about his paternal great-grandfather losing his stocks in the Stock Market Crash of 1929

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Michael Spencer talks about his great-grandmother Sue Spencer's family pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Michael Spencer talks about his great-grandmother Sue Spencer's family pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Michael Spencer talks about his father growing up in Frankfort, Kentucky

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Michael Spencer talks about his father's career as a beer salesman

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Michael Spencer describes how his parent's met

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Michael Spencer talks about his parents' marriage

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Michael Spencer describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Michael Spencer talks about his household as a child

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Michael Spencer describes the neighborhoods he grew up in

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Michael Spencer talks about elementary school and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Michael Spencer talks about the death of his father

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Michael Spencer talks about his mother's careers

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Michael Spencer talks about government officials his mother worked with

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Michael Spencer talks about his mother being part of African American society in Washington D.C.

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Michael Spencer talks about his junior high school

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Michael Spencer talks working with a graduate student on his science fair project

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Michael Spencer talks about Dr. Herman Branson's involvement in the discovery of the structure of DNA

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Michael Spencer talks about Dr. Herman Branson

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Michael Spencer describes how he decided to go to a prep school in New Hampshire

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Michael Spencer talks about his experience at his prep school, New Hampton School, in New Hampshire

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Michael Spencer describes his science classes and extracurricular activities at his prep school, New Hampton School

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Michael Spencer talks about his interviews for admission to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Michael Spencer describes the racial tensions on Cornell University's campus when he attended

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Michael Spencer talks about the Africana Studies Department at Cornell University

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Michael Spencer describes the engineering department at Cornell University

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Michael Spencer talks about the Black Electrical Engineers and alumni of Cornell University

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Michael Spencer talks about his time as a member of the Nation of Islam

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Michael Spencer talks about Minister Farrakhan and Malcolm X

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Michael Spencer talks about religion

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Michael Spencer talks about his education at Cornell University

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Michael Spencer describes the work environment at Bell Laboratories

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Michael Spencer describes his work at Bell Laboratories

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Michael Spencer talks about his doctoral dissertation

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Michael Spencer talks about his time as a professor at Howard University

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Michael Spencer talks about doing research at Howard University

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Michael Spencer talks about his former students at Howard University

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Michael Spencer describes his decision to leave Howard University to become a professor at Cornell University

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Michael Spencer talks about his research at Cornell University

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Michael Spencer talks about Widetronix, the company he cofounded

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Michael Spencer talks about the prospects of Widetronix

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Michael Spencer describes his publications and patents

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Michael Spencer reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Michael Spencer talks about STEM education in the United States

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Michael Spencer describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Michael Spencer talks about his family

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Michael Spencer talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Michael Spencer describes his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

7$5

DAStory

2$9

DATitle
Michael Spencer describes his publications and patents
Michael Spencer describes the work environment at Bell Laboratories
Transcript
Tell us about some of your publications and would it be correct to generalize that you are publishing more at Cornell [University, Ithaca, New York] than you did at Howard [University, Washington, D.C.]?$$Yeah, I would say so. Certainly more in terms of numbers and also citations are higher, the number of citations are higher.$$Okay, that's when someone else uses your research?$$Yeah, when someone else--$$Cites what you're--$$--cites your work in their publication.$$Okay.$$Yeah.$$All right. What are some of your papers and I want you to talk about some of your patents too.$$Well, we have on the patent side, we have of course in a small company you always--patents are more important. So we have some patents on ways of getting more power out of beta voltaic batteries or nuclear batteries. So power meaning power density and so that's one major area of patenting. In terms of publications, we have, we did a lot of work on using something called scanning probe microscopes to get information about semiconductors. So a scanning probe microscope is based on the material that is piezoelectric. Now piezoelectric means that if you apply electricity to this material it moves a very, very small distance. So in a scanning probe unit you have a little tip which is moved very small distances by these piezoelectric manipulators and as that tip comes close to the surface of the semiconductor it will experience a force and that force that it experiences can be measured. Now using that force and a lot of other things related to it we can make very nice measurements about some of the properties of the material. We can determine what are the electric fields that are coming from dislocations and other problems and so we use that, those techniques. It's called Kelvin probe microscopy to characterize a material. And we were some of the first to do that and so that publication has received a lot--those series of papers have received a lot of citations and that work was started when I came to Cornell. Some of the more recent graphene work in which we have demonstrated a way of actually producing suspended membranes of Graphene. So I told you that graphene is one atomic layer thick. Well we can actually make a membrane that is suspended in space bound on either side, it's suspended and this one atomic layer is literally in space. And so you can actually see right through it with an electronic microscope. And it's really quite amazing that you can actually, that one atomic layer of atoms will self-support but the other amazing thing is you can actually make useful devices out of this one atomic layer. You can put it into vibration and you can make lots of things. So this particular way of suspending the membranes has also you know been given a lot of attention. We're completing a paper now in which we have demonstrated for the first time producing graphene on another material called sapphire and we have studied and we plan on submitting this to the journal 'Nature.' I'm very excited about it. We have studied the way in which the potential of the substrate will actually align the graphene films so that paper has yet to be submitted but it will be soon. And I don't remember what all the things that I put down, one of the other papers I put down on there. I think I probably put down something about a measuring properties of aluminum nitride which we've talked about and we also--and then there was the initial work on grain boundaries which we're very proud of. And you know there, I think there are a number of other things but I think, you know I have over one hundred and twenty publications so I think that's a good--I think right now is a good place to stop. (Laughter).$$Okay.$Now what kind of projects were you working on at Bell Labs and well tell me something about the environment of Bell Labs and as a work environment and what projects were you working on?$$So at Bell Laboratories was divided into divisions or areas, Area 10, Area 20, Area 30, Area 40, Area 50--10 was basic science, 20 was applied engineering, that was my area, 40 I believe was transmission I think or switching. I can't recall all of them. But I was in Area 20 and we did power supplies. I was the only black engineer at Area 20 and my first--and Area 20 had several, a couple of laboratories. A laboratory is a fairly large group of, fairly large group and then departments, laboratory department then groups. So, first departmental meeting one of the technicians raises the question about affirmative action hires. I'm the only black face in the room. It must have been fifty people and were they qualified, something to that affect. Oh god, anyway you asked about--$$Well how was that handled? We can't just skip over that. Now what--?$$How was that handled?$$Yeah.$$It wasn't handled. The question just laid there as the department head sort of moved on and didn't answer.$$There were no affirmative action hires in your department right?$$Well the implication was that I was the affirmative action hire.$$Right, right, right, yeah.$$Being the only black in the room. And it wasn't handled.$$So, well go on. So what was that typical of the atmosphere there or was it--did it get better?$$Well it wasn't typical but it wasn't atypical either. I think you were--I think the way you have to view Bell Labs is it had managers who were both, who were angels, some were angels and others were devils and others were ambivalent.$$Hmm, okay just like in the rest of life I guess?$$Hmm?$$Just like everything else in life?$$Pretty much.$$Every other area.$$Yeah.$$Okay, all right. So I've heard people--now I'll put it like--I've heard people say the people we've interviewed within this month have talked about how Bell Labs had such a wonderful you know, what a wonderful place it was to work because of the way all the you know research scientists were treated and engineers for the most part, freedom to you know explore things and they had well, they were well equipped and they had you know there was a lot of freedom at Bell Labs to explore things and that sort--that's what we were told.$$Well yeah that's absolutely right. That's probably, there were three places in the country to work and Bell Labs was one of them. As an MTS, member of the technical staff, I, you know I had a signature authority of a thousand dollars on my own as I recall. We were more in applied division. In the research area, Area 10, even more flexibility on what to work with. Bell Labs was a monopoly that wasn't very well controlled at that time and so the labs were run on one percent of the profits of the Bell system which was a huge amount of money and they didn't have to worry about getting money so that was always there. So it was a tremendous place to work, wonderful work was done. It has never been duplicated. Again, I'm very proud of the fact that I'm an alumnus of Bell Labs in a technical sense and you meet other people who are alumni of Bell Labs and as I said it has, was not duplicated.