Mark B. Wise
John A. McCone Professor of High Energy Physics
By David Zierler
February 18, 2021
In this interview, David Zierler, then Oral Historian for the American Institute of Physics (AIP), interviews Mark Wise, John A. McCone Professor of High Energy Physics, at Caltech.
Wise recounts his childhood in Toronto, his early difficulties in school, and his interests in physics, which he studied as an undergraduate at the University of Toronto and was mentored by Nathan Isgur. He describes the circumstances leading to his graduate admission at Stanford and how he became Fred Gilman's student at SLAC where he worked on weak radiative hyperon decays and QCD corrections for effective Hamiltonian CP violating processes. Wise describes his postdoctoral work as a Harvard fellow and his excitement about SU(5) grand unification, his close collaboration with Joe Polchinski and how he developed an interest in cosmology. He explains his decision to join the faculty at Caltech, where he started to work with David Politzer, and his involvement in heavy quark effective theory and weak radiative B meson decays. Wise discusses the durability of the Standard Model and what advances might push physics, and in particular, astrophysics and cosmology, beyond the Standard Model. He discusses his hobby pursuit of finance and investing and he muses on the similarities in model-building in physics and financial economics. At the end of the interview, Wise reflects on his contributions and why particle physics allows the possibility for repetitious experiments in a way that astrophysics and cosmology do not, he describes his current interests in conformal Fermi coordinates, and he describes the moral obligation he feels to his graduate students to be the best mentor he can be.