To view this page ensure that Adobe Flash Player version 11.1.0 or greater is installed.

CREDIT: Dave Barfield IN THEIR  ALBERT OWN WORDS MIGLIORI Laboratory physicist describes a career solving scientific mysteries for national security. SEPTEMBER 1973. It’s late afternoon, the sky is black, and Jemez mountain lightning and thunder accompany a monsoon rain as I wind my way up the main hill road to Los Alamos for the first time, stunned by the view that confirms my decision to accept a Los Alamos Director’s Postdoctoral Fellow position. Of course, I am also terrified to be starting at a serious research institution. A few months earlier, I had completed my Ph.D. in condensed matter physics, and, as fate would have it, the Vietnam war had ended, releasing me from a two-year obligation to serve as a 1 st Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Signal Corps on combat duty. I’d also just turned down a permanent position with another national laboratory, hoping to land the job at Los Alamos. Graduate school had given me a superb education in hard-core, hands-dirty experimental physics, and I was hooked, then and now. During that first decade at Los Alamos, I had a blast. I was promoted to permanent staff and began working with John Wheatley, a famous low-temperature physicist, on acoustic engines—an idea I had from the operation of tuned exhausts in two-stroke motorcycle engines. Wheatley ran with this, and I was barely able to hang on, but this was how I got my start with acoustic methods. After Wheatley’s death, I headed back to condensed- matter physics. Around that same time, the physics world was turned upside down by the discovery of high-temperature superconductors. Unlike all previously discovered super- conductors in which electrical current flows resistance-free below a critical temperature T c close to absolute zero, high-T c superconductors function at more accessible temperatures, perhaps someday without any cooling at all. (This would be nothing short of a technological revolution, and the quest for it continues to this day.) With my doctoral work on superconductivity and the thermodynamics I had picked up since, I knew that a crucial high-T c measurement would be of the superconductor’s bulk- modulus discontinuity at the superconducting transition—a required sharp change in the material’s elastic properties at T c . So I began to develop a technique for carrying out that measurement, resonant ultrasound spectroscopy (RUS), not knowing at the time that geologists had been doing the same. Lucky for me (not so much for them), my background in electronics and Los Alamos’s advanced computing capabilities were such that my colleagues and I were able to develop this tool, hardware and software, to the point where it is now widely used. (In crediting the pioneering work by geologists that I only later found out about, I was quoted in Physics Today as saying, “Six months in the lab can save you a day in the library.”) 1663 December 2016 5