Saturday, January 28, 2012


The 1968~69 academic year was my post doctorate research time, but there were quite a number of job interviews as well. While I was mainly interested in academic positions, I also looked into several  industrial positions, just in case an academic position did not materialize to my satisfaction. Salary wise, industrial positions had starting salaries which were just about twice that of academic positions. But, actually, things were not that clear cut, since all academic positions involved a 9 month appointment and summers could be used for many other working opportunities. Since Janice was pregnant, she did not go to many of my interviews. I had a lot to learn about interviews! While I attended a few seminar lectures designed to assist graduate students in preparing for the interview process, they were not enough to disguise my rough edges! At the end, I was offered two jobs in industrial settings and two in academics. Since we had already set our eyes on the academic life, we did not really pay much attention, perhaps unfairly, to the industrial possibilities.

The two academic positions were both at the assistant professor level, one at the University of Kentucky(UK), in Lexington, KY, and another at Cleveland State University(CSU), in Cleveland, OH. Both schools gave me well organized interviews. For example, when CSU learned that I liked to sing, the schedule was rearranged to allow me to talk with a person from the Cleveland Symphony Chorus about auditioning for the chorus. And UK invited me to an informal party after the long day, which included talks with faculty members and a graduate seminar presentation. All the faculty members came to the party, in order to have a chance to chat about things other than just Physical Chemistry. At the end I accepted the offer from UK.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Fernald Hall

In January, 1969, right after our Christmas vacation and while Janice was pregnant with Margaret, we went to Orono, Maine, to interview for a position in the Chemistry Department at the University of Maine. It was a beautiful clear day. We had a great drive up there, but it was very cold!

The chair of the Chemistry Department took us around every where. It was not an impressive place. However, both Janice and I were very much astonished to find out that the first president of the university was apparently one of Janice’s ancestors. There were very few Fernalds in the USA, and they all traced back to the Mayflower era when four or five English brothers came to the US and settled around the New England area. The Fernald Hall, named to remember his presidency, was still there in 1969 when we visited the University!


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Our First New Car

Janice and I bought our first, brand new car in early 1968. It was a green Volkswagen beetle. Before then, both Janice and I only had used cars; Janice was driving an American Rambler and I had a 1956 Chevy sedan. We kept Janice’s car after we were married until we committed to buy this new VW beetle for $50 a month. The price tag was a total of $2000. We were really financially pretty well-off at the time, since Janice’s and my assistantships each provided slightly less than $500 a month. And we did not have to pay tax on my federal fellowship from the US atomic energy commission. Further, my postdoc salary was even higher after September, 1968.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Ginger and Bill Francis

In Champaign-Urbana, where we lived almost five years totally, our best friends were all primarily from the Folk Dance Society. The group consisted of about two hundred people. It was a transient group, people came and went, only a few were permanent. Most came for a degree or two and then left. Our closest friends were an older couple, the Francises. Bill came for his Doctorate in Wild-life conservation after he retired from the US Navy, and Ginger was once a missionary in Africa. Both of them came the year before we did and became involved with folk dancing in all aspects. Since they owned a home there we had a lot of parties at their home. They played quite a number of leadership roles with the group, and we followed in their footsteps to become the leaders of the folk dance group as well. We not only served officially as officers of the group, we carried the records, manned the weekly programs, taught the dances, organized the official and unofficial parties, planned performance programs, practices, of course, the performances.

Bill got his Doctorate in 1967 and he took a job with the Ohio Conservation corps. They moved to Sandusky, Ohio. In the summer of 1968, Janice and I visited them there.  While we were there, we visited a tourist park called Cedar Point.  The picture below was taken there. Their third son, Jeff, was there at home with them then. We certainly had a lot of great times together!


Friday, January 20, 2012

At the Beginning of the Computer Age

While the first actual computer might have been built  in the early 1950’s, the first practical and useful computers began to be widely used by the scientific community in the sixties. Since my doctorial thesis contained both experimental and theoretical aspects, I used a lot of computer time. The IBM 7090/94 was used daily for my work. We learned(took short courses) some uses of machine language, and used FORTRAN on all our programing. The rate at which we learned to use this new technique was as fast as the rate of increasing computer speed. It was amazing! The demand for both computer speed and storage space matched the development of new hardware. My thesis relied on punch cards, batch execution, coding, compiling, and waiting patiently for results. Such terms not used any more nowadays. Let me explain. For our theoretical work, when we first started to use a computer, we began by coding our program – usually according to our mathematical formulation. Then we had to compile our program to see if the computer understood what we tried to do. Then we would test our program with known data before we could apply it to our own experimental data. The data themselves were usually added at the end of our computer program, all of them having to be recorded on punch cards. The punch machine, a punch card, and a box of punch cards are shown in the pictures below. They were used only for a decade or so! Can you imagine a way of life that changed in less time than a fourth or less of a generation.punch-cardspunch cardpunch-card-box

My coded program consisted of almost one full box of cards (more than one thousand program lines). After being  compiled, the length would shrink to about one third the size. Janice would walk with me to the computer center to deliver the program and put it in the queue to run over night. Since longer programs were only run at night, we had to wait, and wait! Janice and I would go to a movie sometimes while we were waiting. This kind of experience was typical at the beginning of the new computer age!

More about Cape Cod

There are a few more items which need to be included in this blog so that the picture will be more clear about the summer months we spent during those few years after Janice and I were married.

Of course we did some “fishing” there! Realistically, we did some clamming. I learned this method from Janice’s Uncle Fran. This is how you get the clams on the cape: Arrive on the beach just before low tide. Walk toward the deep end as far as you can. Use your feet with or without shoes to feel the sand and the area immediately underneath (a clam will give you some resistance). Use your feet to keep it there, then dive to get it. I would catch a bucket full within an hour. Then I learned how to open them and clean them. Janice learned how to make some chowder. Pretty cool!

Once Uncle Fran arranged us to go “trawling” with a professional fishing boat. We got up before 5am and sailed to the deep end of the bay. They went to several places where a circle of net had been placed to attract and catch fish. Once inside a circle, the men would pull the net from one side to the other, thus trapping the fish in one corner. After that they could scoop up the catch into the boat. It was quite an experience for us. We certainly had some feelings about “fishing”. Both Janice and I were happy that fishing was not our profession for different reasons. Janice could not get up that early every day. I could not stand that kind of work every day!



Another big part of our summer visits was that we saw the third generation of children started during that period. Doug and Laura Bergstein and David and Fiona Paul were born and they grew up spending summers on the Cape. Cape Cod was part of their life from the beginning! Our children would join them soon!


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Gordon Research Conferences

I was trying to remember what did we did at the University of Illinois that was very special and that I missed after I left there. The first thing which came to mind, of course, was the very active Folk Dance group, where Janice and I met. The second thing was my attendance at  several  “Gordon Research Conferences” . Even though I was only a graduate student at the time, Dr. Yankwich was kind enough to sponsor my participation in those prestigious meetings. The conferences were held for an entire week in the middle of summer, with very specific subjects. The ones which we attended were named “ The Chemistry and Physics of Isotopes”. I attended one in Crystal Mountain, in Washington State, and two more in New England, one in New Hampshire and another in Maine. They gave me a very good introduction into how experts in the field interacted with each other. Besides allowing me to visit these nice spots in the country, they were good confidence builders for a timid graduate student. I learned a LOT!


Monday, January 16, 2012

Costume Party

When you are young, you do a lot of silly things, but they are fun too! We were certainly young when we studied at the University of Illinois. The Illini Folk Dance Society gave us plenty of joy and lots of exercise! Besides weekly meetings and going beer drinking after the dances, we had plenty of other gatherings too, such as special workshops, picnics at the Lake of the Woods, etc. Certainly we had other regular meetings too, such as Chinese club meetings. At the time, there were three Chinese groups on campus. a Mainland group, a Hong Kong group and a Taiwan group. So which one was the Chinese group? It all depended on which group you belonged to. Taiwan group was the largest, and I was there, and I was the president of the group at one time!

Once in a while, we had special parties. When you are young, you try to have get-togethers with or without any reason. We had a costume party more than once. The picture below shows how silly we looked at one of them:


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Christmas 1968

Since Janice and I got married in 1965, we traveled to Janice’s parents’ home in Winchester, MA, near Boston, for every Christmas holiday season. We certainly enjoyed their hospitality. Janice’s father was a quiet reserved person. He enjoyed working on his own projects alone, whether he worked on his puzzles, or his photo-equipment, or his cameras. But he always enjoyed us being there. Janice mother, on the other hand, liked to make plans for our visiting schedule and made suggestions to Baba, Janice’s grandma, for our meals. Certainly she took pains to buy gifts we wanted or we needed as she saw them! 

1968 was the last year we traveled to Boston, as we planned to stop our visits when we started our own family. Since Margaret was born in 1969, we stopped our cold winter trips that year. Before the Christmas holidays in 1968, Janice had already started to decorate our own Christmas tree and we invited Dean’s family (including Deana who was born in October, 1968) and friends to visit. These pictures were taken then. Susan Hu’s mother is in the pictures with her family, along with Dean, Maria and Deana.          


Monday, January 2, 2012

PhD Thesis and Party.

At the end of August 1968, I was totally done with my PhD work During the summer months, a lot of hours were devoted to the thesis writing, thesis defending, then more changes to the writing. At that time, I had a professional typist lady who typed my entire thesis, with math symbols and special notations on lithographic sheets. It was not just difficult to type them, changing them after she had typed them was even tougher. She had plenty of patience to do the job, I remember. My thesis was entitled “ Theoretical and Experimental Studies of some Carbon Kinetic Isotope Effects” and had a total of 185 pages, with formulas and graphs as shown in the pictures below:


There was quite a bit work for me and for the typist. We finally got everything done in early October that year. Peter Yankwich started to hire me as a post doc, beginning in September.

We had a big party at the Presbyterian Student Center, sometime during that period, I forget the exact date. A lot of friends were there. Some of the pictures below were taken then:phd-party-8-5phd-party-68phd-party-68-3phd-party-68-2