Memorials


William ("Bill") Slater

Prof. William ("Bill") Slater passed away on Sunday July 14, 2019.

Bill spent most of his career as one of the pioneering members of the UCLA experimental high-energy physics group. After receiving his Ph.D. (1958) from the University of Chicago, he came to UCLA in 1962. He contributed to the foundations of particle physics, including determining the quantum numbers of the phi meson, now known to be the first bound state of two strange quarks. These were found to agree with predictions by the famous UCLA theoretician J. J. Sakurai. Bill’s decades of work included experiments with colliding electrons, K mesons, and the highest-energy particles ever observed---cosmic rays with energies in excess of 10^20 electron-volts. Bill was equally at home with both detector hardware and analysis software. He nominally retired in 2006, but continued to be a daily presence in the department, continuing his active research program, being recalled to teaching, and always improving the “Physics 180F” particle-physics undergraduate laboratory. Bill’s wife Marilyn has told me how much he loved the department.

Services will be private. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be given to the Physics and Astronomy Department. Bill is sorely missed and his impact on our department will be felt for decades to come.

Sincerely, David Saltzberg

Los Angeles Times Obituary

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Rubin Braunstein

Professor Emeritus Rubin Braunstein passed away on June 9, 2018. He was 96 years old.

Rubin Braunstein earned his doctorate in physics at Syracuse University in 1954, specializing in experimental condensed matter. He reported on infrared emission from gallium arsenide and other semiconductor alloys in 1955. Two years later, he demonstrated that rudimentary devices could be used for non-radio communication across a short distance. He was credited with the invention of the first LED, developed when he worked for RCA (Radio Corporation of America) in the late 1950s.

After joining UCLA Professor Braunstein studied band structures and lattice dynamics of semiconductors, metals and insulators, both crystalline and amorphous. The linear as well as the nonlinear optical interactions of coherent radiation with matter were part of his focus, as well as the surface properties using a range of electron spectroscopies.

Professor Braunstein used unique techniques to study light scattering in multiple scattering media. He also employed spectroscopic techniques to study local defects caused by strand breaks and altered bases in DNA. Material systems studied conisted of crystalline and amorphous semiconductors, insulating glasses and high temperature superconductors, and macro-molecules of biological interest.

Professor Braunstein was a member of the APS, the American Physical Society, American Association of University Professors, and the New York Academy of Sciences.



Professor Maha Ashour-Abdalla

Maha Ashour-Abdalla, longtime Professor in the UCLA Department of Physics and Astronomy passed away on the evening of May 1, 2016 at the age of 72. Maha was born in Alexandria, Egypt. After completing her B.Sc. at Alexandria University in 1964, she received a scholarship to pursue graduate studies under the direction of Professor Jim Dungey at Imperial College in London where she was awarded her Ph.D. in 1971. She then became a research scientist at the Centre National d'Etudes des Telecommunications in France, before moving to Los Angeles where she was a geophysics researcher in the UCLA Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics from 1976-1985. Maha was appointed as a Professor in the UCLA Department of Physics and Astronomy in 1985. She was elected a Fellow of both the American Physical Society (1986) and the American Geophysical Union (1993).

Maha founded the UCLA Space Plasma Simulation Group (SPSG), which was one of the first groups in the country dedicated to using plasma physics simulations for magnetospheric physics in close coordination with spacecraft data. The UCLA group, under her leadership developed one of the first global magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) simulations of the solar wind, magnetosphere and ionosphere system. She led the development of the large-scale kinetic simulation technique in which the trajectories of millions of ions or electrons are traced in the time dependent magnetic and electric fields derived from the MHD simulations. Over the years, Maha was principal investigator on numerous grants from NASA and NSF.

Recently, she was the UCLA principal investigator of an Interdisciplinary Scientist grant for NASA's Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission, a four spacecraft mission launched in 2015 to study the physics of magnetic reconnection, one of the most critical problems in solar and space physics. As principal investigator for a NASA Heliophysics Grand Challenges Research theory grant, she led the SPSG group in the development of a revolutionary new simulation approach in which the MHD simulations are used to set the initial and boundary conditions for a large-scale particle-in-cell (PIC) simulation. The new approach is being used to study the microphysics of reconnection for the MMS mission. Maha authored or coauthored more than 270 research papers in peer-reviewed journals and was invited to give over 200 talks at meetings and conferences worldwide. She served on numerous NAS, NSF and NASA advisory panels including the NAS Committee on Solar Terrestrial Research, the NSF Advisory Panel for Advanced Scientific Computing and the NASA Space Physics Advisory Subcommittee.

In an effort to share her passion for space plasma research with the next generation of young space scientists, Maha initiated the International School for Space Simulations (ISSS) in 1982 along with colleagues from Japan (H. Matsumoto and T. Sato) and France (R. Gendrin). For more than 30 years the school has educated generations of young scientists in numerical simulation techniques. The first school, ISSS-1, was held in Kyoto Japan in 1982, with succeeding ISSS held every two to three years, rotating between Europe, North America and Asia. She helped to organize the most recent ISSS-12, which was convened in Prague in 2015.

Teaching at UCLA was another of Maha's passions. Her undergraduate physics courses were very popular with students and often filled past normal capacity. Maha spent long hours helping her students and saw many of them advance to graduate and medical schools. Her upper division plasma physics and numerical analysis courses were also very popular. Many of her students were inspired to attend ISSS, with many going on to careers in science. For her devotion and excellence in teaching, the UCLA chapter of Theta Chi awarded her its Educator Appreciation Award. From 1991-2015 the Department of Physics and Astronomy awarded Maha 11 Outstanding Teacher Awards. The ultimate appreciation of her teaching abilities was shown in January 2000 when she was named one of the Top 20 UCLA Professors of the 20th Century by UCLA Today. During her tenure at UCLA, Maha also supervised eleven Ph.D. graduates from the Department of Physics and Astronomy, as well as numerous undergraduate researchers.

Maha had a keen interest in developing educational programs for students (K-12 and college) that utilized innovative digital technologies, sometimes partnering with major companies such as Hitachi, Sun Microsystems and McGraw-Hill. In 1999 she founded and became the director of the UCLA Center for Digital Innovation (CDI) and oversaw the development of several educational software products including chemistry (CyberChem) and physics (MEPI), Space Discovery, Smart School (K-12 curriculum development), Wattsville (energy concepts) and IMED (UCLA distance learning). An early focus of CDI was the launching of the Transpacific Interactive Distance Education (TIDE) program, which allowed students at UCLA and at Kyoto University in Japan to participate in face-to-face collaborative lectures. During the twelve years Maha directed CDI, the center produced nine web-based programs in high school science and math for the University of California College Prep Initiative, a preparation course for the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE), and a certified “International Computing Driving License” course. For her efforts in the area of digital education, she received the Sun Microsystems “Sun Customer Leadership Award” in recognition of outstanding efforts in deploying the latest technologies in the field of distance learning (1998), the Asian Multimedia Forum, U.S. Regional Award for courseware development (1999) and the CENIC Innovation in Networking 2008 Award for Educational Applications related to the development of CAHSEE.

Maha Ashour-Abdalla was a tireless worker and prolific researcher in the field of space plasma physics. Until very recently she was actively working on research and teaching. Maha was charismatic, engaging, extremely loyal, and those who met her quickly came to appreciate the force of her personality. Maha was truly a one of a kind individual who left an indelible impression on everyone she met. She will be greatly missed. Maha is survived by her husband Dr. Mohamed Abdalla and her daughter Kenz Abdalla.



Michael Jura

Professor Jura's obituary is online at the UCLA newsroom.



David B. Cline

Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy David B. Cline, a driving force behind experiments aimed at understanding the world of elementary particles and forces, died at UCLA Medical Center on June 27 following a heart attack on campus the previous afternoon. He was 81.

Still active in teaching and research at the time of his death, Cline had remarkably broad passions for both. He taught standard courses with content ranging from introductory astronomy and physics for non-science majors to advanced graduate topics; he also took great pleasure in communicating modern physics to students via both Honors Collegium and Fiat Lux courses of his invention.

Cline’s scientific career branched out from its core in the study of elementary particles to related fields, including the acceleration of high-energy particle beams, the quest to identify the nature of dark matter, and the cosmological interpretation of astrophysical observations. In all these endeavors, he organized numerous workshops and conferences at UCLA to bring together the world’s experts. His insatiable curiosity even extended to organizing a small conference to discuss the question of the physical origin of the homochirality of life, i.e., why certain molecules in living systems are always left-handed.

After receiving a B.S. and masters in physics at Kansas State University, Cline earned his Ph.D. in 1965 at the University of Wisconsin under the supervision of William Fry. At that time, the sub-nuclear “weak force” was hypothesized to be carried by an electrically charged particle, the W boson. A crucial question was whether or not the weak force also had an electrically neutral carrier, the Z boson. Cline and his collaborators studied the decays of a particle called the kaon, and appeared to rule out the existence of a Z boson, if it behaved as expected.

Beginning in the late 1960’s, Cline, by then a physics professor at the University of Wisconsin, and his collaborators (including Carlo Rubbia, Alfred Mann and others) performed a series of difficult, innovative experiments to study the weak force at Fermilab outside Chicago. They used beams of neutrinos, electrically neutral particles observed to interact in such experiments only via the weak force. After a period of controversy, they agreed with the claim coming from the CERN laboratory in Geneva that certain neutrino interactions required the Z boson after all. The puzzle of consistency with the older kaon decay data was meanwhile solved by theorists who postulated the existence of a fourth type of quark, called charm (in addition to Gell-Mann’s original up, down, and strange), which was discovered by others soon thereafter.

The next challenge was to produce these W and Z bosons directly. Carlo Rubbia, Peter McIntyre, and David Cline made a radical proposal, in a famous 1976 paper, to use existing proton accelerators to make antiprotons and collide them head-on with protons. Sufficient energy would then be concentrated in these collisions to produce the massive W and Z bosons. The proposal was first implemented at CERN, resulting in the discovery of W bosons and Z bosons in 1983 by physicists including Cline, leading to the Nobel Prize for Rubbia and Simon van der Meer (the inventor of the methods used to make the antiproton beams).

In 1984, shortly after the U.S. Congress enacted the Small Business Innovation Research program to assist small businesses, Cline took advantage by co-founding Particle Beam Lasers, Inc., a small company engaged in developing technologies and subsystems to accelerate and control elementary particle beams. Cline served as a director of the company until the time of his death.

In 1986, Cline moved from Wisconsin to UCLA, where he promoted new directions of research in the department. Foremost among these was to find new faculty dedicated to the rapidly growing field of accelerator physics that had outgrown its roots in nuclear and particle physics to develop novel accelerators for use in many other fields, including X-ray lasers and medical sciences. In addition to performing research on advanced particle physics accelerators, he recruited the first dedicated accelerator physics faculty member at UCLA, Claudio Pellegrini. Pellegrini further shaped the department, and recently was awarded the Enrico Fermi Presidential Award. Cline was also a champion of the emerging field of astroparticle physics both internationally and at UCLA, where he worked with others to attract new faculty and to pursue new intellectual directions including gamma ray astronomy. UCLA now has unique, world-class efforts in both accelerator physics and astroparticle physics.

Meanwhile in the early 1990’s, a plan for an enormous circular accelerator, the Superconducting Supercollider with beam energies over ten times higher than the Tevatron, was being pursued in the U.S. Cline and a few others in the U.S. chose to work on a competing CERN-based effort called the Large Hadron Collider, and he was one of the founders of one of the large detector collaborations known as CMS. When the U.S. supercollider was canceled by Congress in 1993, U.S. participation in the CERN collaborations dramatically increased, eventually reaching 30% of the 2000 member CMS Collaboration. Cline proposed that UCLA be a major CMS detector assembly and testing site, which led to a very successful project on the west campus of UCLA. From UCLA’s early participation in CMS, the effort grew to include the involvement of several more professors, numerous undergraduate and graduate students and UCLA’s international leadership in several aspects of CMS. In 2012, the CMS collaboration and the ATLAS collaboration announced the discovery at CERN of the Higgs boson, the particle associated with the mechanism giving rise to the masses of the W and Z bosons.

Cline was also one of the pioneers of the use of the liquefied noble gases as particle detectors, a technique having multiple applications in diverse areas of particle physics. Cline was involved in the realization of the ICARUS detector in Italy, which at 600 tons is the largest such detector to date. Originally built to study neutrinos from the sun, it was ultimately used to detect neutrinos beams from CERN. Cline was an early advocate of scaling up such detectors to tens of thousands of tons. A decades-long international effort eventually led to the current plan to place a 40,000 ton liquid argon detector deep underground in South Dakota to study neutrinos from a new Fermilab beam and to perform other frontier physics research. Cline remained enthusiastic about this line of research until the end of his life.

Cline and his UCLA group made innovations in the development of the use of liquid argon and xenon to detect dark matter, a substance that appears to make up most of the mass of the Milky Way and other galaxies. Such dark matter particles may be streaming through all of our matter, occasionally bumping into nuclei and depositing tiny amounts of energy that can be detected only by extremely sensitive detectors. The UCLA dark matter group continues to collaborate on experiments using both argon and xenon.

As the dark matter continues to evade unambiguous confirmed detection, numerous other techniques have been employed to understand its nature, and intense theoretical work is ongoing to try to put together pieces of the puzzle. Beginning in 1994, Cline has organized a biannual conference near UCLA, inviting all the international researchers in this area. This became an extremely popular, major event in the particle and astroparticle physics communities, and the organizing committee is enthusiastically continuing with plans for the twelfth such conference in February 2016.

While working on particle and astroparticle physics at UCLA, Cline continued his work on particle beam physics and particle accelerators, leading a group that performed many frontier experiments on advanced accelerators and detectors, in collaboration with Brookhaven National Laboratory. He made a strong contribution to the international program to develop a muon collider as an alternative to electron-positron colliders. Many of his students in this field now have important positions at national laboratories.

Cline had an inquisitive and insatiable thirst for knowledge and a remarkable memory. He was dynamic in spirit, and demanding and relentless in pursuing scientific ideas. His creativity, enthusiasm, and passion for new devices and experimental techniques kept him well placed at the forefront of physics research.

Cline was preceded in death by his beloved son David Bruce Cline Jr., his parents Ella Mae Cline and Andrew Bruce Cline, and his sister Sandra Cline. He is survived by his children Richard Andrew Cline, Heather Alane Cline, Daphne Aileen Boyle, and Yasmin Cline; and his eight grandchildren Connor, Brendan, and Ryan Boyle; Chiara, Gina, and Ilaria Cline; Myles Cline Cence; and Skye Rose Cline.




Nina Byers

It is with regret that I inform you that Professor (Emerita) Nina Byers has died following the stroke she suffered recently.

Nina was a member of our faculty over a significant period of growth and change in the department, arriving in 1961 and spending almost her entire career thereafter at UCLA. She was a pioneer in many ways, making an impact in theoretical physics through seminal work in a variety of areas, from particle physics to superconductivity.

Her pioneering role as a woman in physics in a time when this was a lonely classification was also a defining aspect of her career. She led an initiative to document the historic generation of women to which she belonged, developing the website Contributions of 20th Century Women to Physics that brings to life the contributions to science by over 80 female physicists of the 20th century. This work was deepened in the publication of “Out of the shadows: contributions of twentieth-century women to physics” co-edited with Gary Williams.

Nina was born in Los Angeles, California and studied physics at U.C. Berkeley, receiving a B.A. with highest honors in 1950. After Berkeley she became a graduate student at the University of Chicago where she was Murray Gell-Mann's first and last Chicago student before he moved on to Caltech. When Gell-Mann left Chicago, Nina became Gregor Wenzel's student and eventually wrote a thesis on pi-mesic atoms, obtaining her Ph.D. in 1956. Her thesis work is the basis of her first publication "Interactions of Low-Energy Negative Pions with Nuclei," which appeared in the Physical Review in 1957.

After Chicago, Nina had a postdoctoral period at the University of Birmingham, England in R.E. Peierls' group in the Department of Theoretical Physics. In 1958 she accepted a research associate position at Stanford University, which led to an assistant professorship with a focus on superconductivity.

Nina joined UCLA in 1961 where she turned her attention to particle physics, collaborating on studies in CP-violation and pion-nucleon charge-exchange scattering. In the late sixties and early seventies, Nina was offered a position at Oxford University and split her time between Los Angeles and Oxford. At Oxford, she was the Jane Watson Visiting Fellow in Somerville College and, for a period, a Science Research Council Senior Scientist.

She returned to UCLA in Fall 1973, where her focus in physics had moved to the new gauge theories of the electroweak interactions. Nina's interest in quarkonium and bound state systems was rekindled in the early 1980's, spurred at least in part by her desire to find suitable thesis topics for her students.

This was a very active time in Byers' life, for not only was she doing forefront research with her students, but she was also heavily committed to the affairs of the American Physical Society (APS). Of particular note during this period was the role she played in the Panel of Public Affairs and in the Forum of Physics and Society of the APS, an organization which she chaired in 1982. Her leadership in the AAAS was also notable and she was named a fellow of both societies. Nina served as President of the APS Forum on History of Physics, a position earned through her dedication to promoting the understanding of two weighty subjects: the role of women in physics, and the examination of physicists’ role in the development and deployment of nuclear weapons.

Nina Byers officially retired from UCLA in 1993, but as a Professor Emerita she remained extremely engaged. Partly spurred by her interest in the role of women in academia, soon after retirement, Nina seriously began contemplating establishing a website that would detail the contributions of women to 20th Century physics. After considerable difficulties at first, and with the help of a significant grant from the Sloan Foundation, Nina was finally able to establish this scholarly archive in 1996.

It has been my pleasure to discuss with Nina over the last few years her legacy to the department, in the establishment of the Nina Byers Lectureship, an endowed chair established to invite leading physicists to come to UCLA for several weeks to give a series of talks and interact with our faculty and students. This program is aimed to be a prestigious honor for the Lecturers as well as a mechanism for bringing the excitement of frontier results from external scientists to UCLA, thus raising the level of discourse in the Department.

James Rosenzweig, Chair




Bernard Nefkens

Obituary: Bernard Nefkens, 79, internationally distinguished UCLA Scientist
By George Igo and John Price
January 22, 2014

Bernard M. K. Nefkens, an internationally renowned scientist who served on UCLA’s faculty for 45 years and made significant research contributions in particle and nuclear physics, died Jan 10th at the age of 79. He made his home in Sherman Oaks, CA. He is survived by his wife, Helen, their three children Julie, Karla, and Chuck, and four grandchildren.

The author of more than 250 scholarly publications, Professor Nefkens received many honors, including being elected as a Fellow of the American Physical Society, a corresponding member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Science, and a member of the New York Academy of Sciences. He was also a member of the European Physical Society, a Saclay Visiting Scientist during 1988-89 and 1978-79, a CERN Visiting Scientist during 1972-1973, and a recipient of a Fulbright Travel Grant during 1959.

Beginning in the late 1990s, he was as a consultant and member of the CELSIUS/WASA project at the University of Uppsala, Sweden, where he also served on the Program Advisory Committee. Professor Nefkens was co-founder and co-editor of the Pion-Nucleon Newsletter, and co-founder of the International Conference on Meson and Nucleon Physics (MENU). His research interests included a diverse array of topics in experimental nuclear physics, and he was an organizer and member of program committees of over eighteen international conferences and workshops.

Professor Nefkens taught at all levels, in lower and upper division undergraduate as well as in graduate classes. He had a strong interest in improving the lower division physics laboratories. He was responsible for the creation of the new sophomore laboratory, Physics 18. This has been a very popular laboratory course because it uses ingenious methods to measure properties of everyday objects around the UCLA Physics Department, such as the popular inverted fountain next door (determining its size and capacity) and of the elevators in Knudsen Hall (their acceleration up and down) , rather than using textbook measurements of springs, etc. which may sometimes seem rather dull to the students. The graduate students that he mentored are recognized for their rigorous training in fundamentals. As a teacher he had an infectious enthusiasm and a caring empathy for his students.

Professor Nefkens’ research was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy beginning in 1966 up to the time of his retirement, with grants reaching up to $1.2M for each of the most recent three-year periods. He supervised many excellent graduate students during his career. Recent PhDs have found research and academic positions in such places as the University of Chicago, Texas A&M, Fermilab, BNL, and RPI. His students were encouraged to spend time abroad and to be involved in the research programs of Professor Nefkens at Bonn, Saclay, Mainz and St. Petersburg.

His research involved the structure of the nucleon, and probing the Standard Model via tests of broken symmetries such as P, C, T, and CP. Throughout the 1980s this work was carried out in large part at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he led a collaboration of several universities in a series of experiments that resulted in a complete measurement of the pion-nucleon scattering process to high precision. In a second experimental study at LANL he produced the most complete study to date on time-reversal invariance in pion-3-body nucleus system. At TRIUMF in Vancouver, Canada, he was responsible for a unique set of neutron detectors that were used to study charge-symmetric reactions around the Delta resonance.

At Saclay in Paris, France, his research group studied decay modes of the eta meson, and at ELSA in Bonn, Germany he worked on the photoproduction of the eta near threshold. One of his greatest achievements was the acquisition of the famous Crystal Ball multiphoton detector, used at SLAC and HERA, which he took to Brookhaven National Laboratory to use at the AGS. There, he founded and led an international collaboration of over 30 faculty and students at twelve institutions to carry out a program of pion-nucleon and kaon-nucleon scattering. In 2002 the Crystal Ball detector was moved to the MAMI facility in Mainz, Germany, where he formed a new collaboration consisting of over 50 faculty and students at 17 institutions, for a photoproduction program that continues to this day.