Nina Byers

My thesis advisor, Nina Byers, passed away June 5, 2014. I just want to say a few words here about her.

I was a Ph. D student with Nina. I remember her being easily accessible, especially for those of us that were at the University late at night. Nina was a great teacher and thought deeply about the problems in physics. She stressed the importance of character in becoming a researcher as opposed to following fashion. Intellectual honesty was a value she passed on. She always suggested the importance of following an idea, wherever it might lead and thus didn’t really see physics as a cell one had to stay inside of. I have taken that to heart in my researches as articulated on this site.

Not too long ago, I wrote to her about what I was up to and reflected about how knowledge gets passed down through the generations. It occurs within an extended family. She was schooled at the University of Chicago. Through her help I worked at Argonne National Lab, run by the University of Chicago. My daughter got her law degree from there. Now my grandson goes to Lab School run by the University.

There are other ripples as well, since I, along with another of her students, Paul Stevens, went off to Oxford to join Nina for almost a year. From there I got the bug to work in Europe, and was fortunate to get a post doc at CERN. Nina taught by example that research was an international quest. My daughter has continued that quest, albeit not in research but in law. She carries out her law practice with regular trips to an office in London and elsewhere outside of the US.

I will miss Nina. I will forever be indebted to her for what she gave to me and the positive impact she had on my family (past and present), though they did not know her well and we’re probably not aware the huge debt we all owe to her.


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