Thursday, October 1, 2009

Building a great physics department

Texas A&M has added another Nobel Laureate to the faculty:
For the second time in four years Texas A&M University has hired a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. Later this week the university will announce the hiring of David M. Lee, winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize in physics. Lee, 78, will move his laboratory from Cornell University to College Station.

“Change is good,” Lee said of the move from Cornell, where he has worked for half a century. “You have new colleagues and new ideas. It's very stimulating.”

The addition of Lee means A&M now has two Nobel Prize winners on its faculty. It hired the other, 77-year-old physics laureate Dudley Herschbach, in 2005.
TAMU Physics seems to be following a plan modeled on another top Physics Department described by blogger Michael White.
I stumbled on this amazing set of videos: physics legend Hans Bethe giving lectures on theoretical physics to his retirement community neighbors.

It's not as crazy as it sounds - a running joke around Ithaca (where I grew up and where Bethe's university, Cornell, is located) is that one of the top physics departments in the US is at the Kendal retirement community in Ithaca.

Update: In the comments, it is pointed out that the Houston Chron missed a Nobel Laureate at TAMU. Prof. Bruce McCarl was a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that won the Peace Prize in 2007, and Vision 1920 should have noted the Chron's omission earlier. Dr. McCarl also has the distinction of having done his Nobel work while at Texas A&M instead of being bought brought in later. However, it should be noted that Dr. McCarl himself on his vita only describes this as "Nobel Peace Prize participant" rather than listing himself as a Nobel prize winner. Since the IPCC had over 2000 members and one usually thinks of a Nobel prize winner as being one of three or fewer who share an award, this humility seems appropriate (and admirable) to us here at Vision 1920.


  1. Texas A&M has three Nobel laureates. The third is Bruce McCarl of Ag Economics, 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

  2. Good point, sort of. See the update.

  3. Please add to Vision 1920:
    To become a high end assisted living hospice facility for geriatic technologies, geriatric (near death) partnerships (Lexicon, Introgen, etc.), and geriatric faculty with big name titles, e.g. Hospice TAMUS.

    It's not a glamorous job, but a niche in today's welfare society.

    Tell the truth now? Were these individuals nicely forced out of their previous homes once time for retirement and hospice came, and dumped on A&M much as technologies, partnerships and other individuals of late? Were these individuals fully vetted by Search Committee?

    One consolation is that Hospice TAMU is system wide in its use of state development funds to support nice retirement home packages for geriatric title holders:

    And has had stiff competition with its its other Vision 1920 competitor who seems to have solved parallel problems in filling poorly thought out building projects with young capable faculty--the University of Houston:

    It would be nice to trickle down a few of these taxpayers retirement bucks to youth who just might earn their Nobel or National Academy title while AT THE INSTITUTION. One compromise if Hospice TAMUS is to become the vision would be to bring these big name geriatric cases in as Assistant Professors with 6 years up or out probation like the rest of the working stiffs. Harvey