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3. Physicists and Students

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ontinuing the tradition of student-centered instruction that began at the department’s founding in the late 19th century, Berkeley physicists and their students endured together the trials and tribulations of a rapidly changing and growing field.


The written preliminary and oral qualifying exam – the agonizing if not consummate rite of passage to taking a Ph.D., as only those who have participated in this ritual truly know – remained an essential part of the teacher/student relationship. If performed well, a newly minted Ph.D. could earn a glowing letter of recommendation from the Nobel laureate or two who served on the dissertation committee.


Owen Chamberlain and Others Listen to Stephen Rock Discuss the "Time-Reversal Invariance" for His Ph. D. Qualifying Exam, 1970
Owen Chamberlain and Others Listen to Stephen Rock Discuss the "Time-Reversal Invariance" for His Ph. D. Qualifying Exam, 1970

[Courtesy Lawrence Berkeley National Labratory]


Departmental Tea

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erhaps the very heart of student-centered instruction during this period was the "departmental tea," also called the "Physics Journal Club," in which one individual would present his work to the faculty and invited guests. The uninitiated might have anticipated a casual event, but would have been stunned by its formality, from the invitation to the intellectual power of the speaker and the audience. It was common, for instance, to have Birge introduce the featured speaker to an audience that included Lawrence and Oppenheimer, and a smattering of other future Nobelists.


Physics Journal Club Presentation, N.D. Birge Lecturing; seated at left: Lawrence and Oppenheimer
Physics Journal Club Presentation, R. T. Birge Lecturing seated at left: Lawrence and Oppenheimer
[UARC PIC 04:268]


G. F. Chew About to Deliver a Talk on "Pionic Charge of the Nucleon," ca. 1955
G. F. Chew About to Deliver a Talk on "Pionic Charge of the Nucleon," ca. 1955

[BANC MSS 2002/345 z, Ctn. 25]


Club meetings including presentations by Thomas Kuhn, Department of History; Gunther Stent, Virus Lab, and William Shockley, Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory.