Physics Alumni & Friends



Dr. John A. Serri, PhD ’80

With the invention of two inexpensive optical devices and a free smartphone app that provides a DIY eye exam, John Serri thinks he may be one of the oldest startup entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. But as he told MIT students and others at a talk in April 2017, when you have what it takes to get an MIT PhD in atomic physics, you can do just about anything.

Thomas Frank ('77, Ph.D. '85)

Tom Frank knew from a young age that he was destined for MIT and in high school a passionate teacher inspired his love of physics. Since arriving on campus, Tom devoted his life to research and discovery in the field of physics.

Serpil & Yalcin (E.E. ’73) Ayasli

The airy conference room in the new Center for Theoretical Physics (CTP) is named in honor of Dr. Serpil Ayasli, a former postdoctoral fellow in the Physics Department, and the wife of alumnus Dr. Yalcin Ayasli. “I thought it would make a very nice anniversary gift,” Yalcin said.

Hale Bradt (Ph.D. ’61), Professor of Physics Emeritus

This year, Professor Hale Bradt established a Fund from his IRA to support the Department’s graduate students. The Fund, named in honor of Mrs. Barbara E. Thomas, undergraduate administrator in the physics education office from 1931–65, wasestablished by Hale in appreciation of the physics department support staff: past, present and future.

John K. Castle (E.C. '63), The Castle Fellowship

John Castle has spent his life balancing science and math with the economics of finance. “People see me as a businessman, but when I look at the manufacturing plant I see it through a mathematical and scientific prism. All businesses have some engineering, chemistry or physics. I feel I have a decided advantage that has proven quite useful in business transactions.”

Suzanne Z Deutsch, A Bequest to the Physics Department

“One day, I came home from work and found Martin lying at the top of the staircase in front of the cellar blowing smoke rings,” recounts Suzanne Deutsch, widow of former MIT Professor Martin Deutsch. Her first thought was that he had lost his mind, but as it turned out there was something wrong with the furnace and Martin was “trying to determine the airflow.”

Jim (’53, Ph.D. ’57) and Sylvia Earl, Generous Supporters of the Green Center for Physics

Jim and Sylvia Earl think it’s perfectly natural to support their alma maters. “We get a lot of satisfaction by doing so,”says Jim.

George J. Elbaum (AA '59, SM AA, NU '63, PhD NU '67), The Whiteman Fellowships

“Physics is beautiful,” according to George Elbaum, who holds an undergraduate and two masters degrees, as well as a Ph.D., all from MIT. Although “freshman physics was my nemesis, I had an epiphany while reviewing undergrad physics for the doctoral exam. I said to myself in awe, ‘Physics is beautiful.’”

Virgil Elings (Ph.D. '66), $3.5 Million Gift to Name the Center for Theoretical Physics

“One of the most important things I learned at MIT was from Bill Lobar, Lou’s [Professor of Physics Emeritus Louis S. Osborne] technician. I asked him one day to show me how the oscilloscope worked, since I’d forgotten whatever I’d learned in undergraduate labs. Bill said, ‘fiddle with the knobs, you’ll figure it out.’ He was right, and it works with almost everything in life. I’ll bet Lou fostered that kind of thinking.”

Morton E. Goulder ('42), Patrons of Physics Fellows

There’s a twinkle in his eye as Mort Goulder talks about his years at MIT and subsequent career. In fact, Mort will tell you that he has never learned anything that wasn’t useful.

William M. Layson (Ph.D. '63), The Presidential Fellowships in Physics

“MIT taught me the experimental process for problem solving. It works in business and it works in physics. I would encourage all young physicists to keep their focus on physics for as long as possible. The deeper you dig the more rewarding it will be, for few things can be more satisfying than research.”

Howard (’73) & Colleen Messing, Patrons of Physics Fellows

Fascinated by astronomy throughout his childhood, Howard remembers, “I thought it would be great to use the computer on astronomy projects. Before I knew it, the second great intellectual passion of my life, computer science, was born.”

Otto and Jane Morningstar, The Morningstar Professorship & Morningstar Visiting Professorship

Otto Morningstar came from Mobile, Alabama, with a love of science and a zeal for learning. At the age of eight, he set fire to his kitchen with his home-grown chemistry set. At 16, he entered Alabama Polytechnic Institute, now known as Auburn University. By good luck, grace, or both, he was discovered in college and encouraged to apply to MIT for graduate school.

A. Neil (E.E. '64) & Jane Pappalardo, Pappalardo Fellowships

Watch Neil Pappalardo as he questions junior faculty on the exact number of exoplanets, or how specifically gravitational waves can be measured, and you’ll see the passion and persistence behind the MEDITECH founder and father of four.

Mark Siegel ('90), Patrons of Physics Fellows

Majoring in physics was not a hard choice for Mark Siegel when he entered MIT as a freshman. As far as he’s concerned, the “amount of information I absorbed in those four years is probably equal to everything I have learned since.”  He’ll also tell you he’s never been with a group of people as intellectually gifted as those students at MIT.

Juan Carlos Torres (S.M. '79), MIT Sloan School of Management

Juan Carlos Torres has had a long interest in physics, which started in his last two years of high school. He had a wonderful physics teacher who sparked his interest in finding out how things work.