Interview of Bunny Clark by Judith Ball Fountain

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Dr. Bunny Clark, Distinguished University Professor of Physics at Ohio State, was a true pioneer in her field. She was encouraged by her parents to pursue a career in science, a daring choice of career at the time. She was the only female in her undergraduate science classes, and there were no female faculty. Her first significant professional break occurred when she was hired at General Motors. During the nine years she remained at GM, where she worked with computer technology, she was also able to complete her master's degree in "condensed matter" at Kansas State University. She also worked with physicists at the University of Illinois and eventually completed her Ph.D. at Wayne State University in Michigan. After her husband, Tom, was transferred to Columbus, Clark secured a position in the Physics Department at Ohio State as a research staff person. She remained in that position for about ten years, but in 1981 she was offered a faculty position in theoretical physics and achieved tenure in 1983. By the 1980s there were a few more women in the field of nuclear theory at other institutions, but for many years she was the only one at Ohio State. During this period Clark was doing serious theoretical research at the university while also managing a household for her husband and mother, who lived with them. She had a computer at home, and this helped considerably. Clark made a major contribution when she developed a whole new theory within nuclear physics about the impact of relativity. Using protons, she employed the Dirac equation to measure the scattering, or spin, of electrons off a nucleus. There were various practical applications of her research, including medicine. A current research interest involves finding out neutron density, and understanding differences between the neutron and the proton. Much of her research has never been done by any other physicist. As Clark was leading the way for women physicists at Ohio State, other institutions were making progress, albeit slowly. MIT has had several women faculty members in physics. Millie Dresselhouse, former President of the American Physical Society, was one of the better known. Judy Frowns was the CEO of ABS. Clark participated in a number of site visits to ascertain the role of women in physics, including students, at institutions of higher learning. Among other institutions visited were Duke University and the California Institute of Technology. A site visit was also done at Ohio State. Another key innovation was creation of the Committee on the Status of Women in Physics. More and more women are becoming faculty members in Physics all the time; perhaps, some 15 percent of the attendees at professional physics conferences are now women. Similar or even better gains are reported in other fields. Engineering also has many women today, as is true also of medical, veterinary, and law schools. The Fisher College of Business has more women than men. In addition to working successfully as an advocate for advancement of women in scientific fields, Clark has served as a mentor to both women and men at Ohio State. She has worked hard, and successfully, to obtain funding and fellowships for her best graduate students and young faculty. After all, "they are the future." Professor Clark has seen many changes in nuclear physics since she first came to Ohio State. Facilities have been expanded. There is a large group doing theoretical and experimental studies. It is essential to encourage and promote the best people, the people who are best for the department, even if they don't fit easily into a specific niche. Clark takes understandable pride in her own career successes. One was her accomplishments toward understanding neutron density. There were also disappointments, including the dismissal of a talented female graduate student who actually had higher scores than some men who were retained. After this incident, in 1994, Clark accepted no more graduate students. Other incidents were reported where men got more favorable treatment than women. One administrator at Ohio State, President Edward Jennings, has done many good things to help in important ways. She is grateful that both of her parents lived long enough to see and enjoy her many professional successes.


Millie Dresselhouse: (p. 15) -- Erman: (p. 4) -- Judy Frowns: CEO of ABS (p. 17) -- John Highmaster: physicist: (p. 7) -- Hostatter: (p. 4) -- Edward Jennings: President of Ohio State: (p. 30) -- Len Jossum: Chair of Physics Department at Ohio State: (pp. 6-7)