Keith Robinson

Emeritus Professor of Physics


Like many of today’s students, I got my first taste of research in an undergraduate research project, an attempt to measure the velocity of sound in solid argon. Additional experience came during summers spent on geophysical surveys in my native Nova Scotia, with one memorable summer at Canada’s nuclear physics facility at Chalk River. By the end of that summer I was fully hooked on a career in research and heading toward subatomic physics.

My doctoral research was a study of hyperfragments, light nuclei in which one neutron has been replaced by a Σ0 hyperon, one of the short-lived “strange” particles. Hyperfragments research formed a natural bridge between the older field of low-energy nuclear physics and the growing new field of high- energy or particle physics.

After graduation I joined Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, where I was fortunate in being able to take part in some of the laboratory’s earliest experiments with its new hydrogen bubble chambers. This was a time of enormous excitement in particle physics. Within a year of my arrival at Brookhaven, the Alternate Gradient Synchrotron began operating as one of the world’s two highest energy accelerators, and a new era of particle physics opened. Our work in strong interaction physics included searches for new resonant states and studies of meson production mechanisms in interactions of pions, protons, and antiprotons in hydrogen and deuterium bubble chambers. We also studied weak interactions in an experiment on the decays and properties of neutral K-mesons.

After several years at Brookhaven, I joined Case Western Reserve University, which gave me the opportunity to teach as well as to continue elementary particle research. Our continued bubble chamber studies included π+n, Kn, and pp interactions, the latter with a polarized proton beam. In the mid- 1970s we shifted our focus to experiments based on electronic counter techniques with computer controlled data taking and on-line monitoring. Experiments included searches for exotic particle production in K+n interactions and in p̄ interactions, as well as studies of the p̄ forward elastic scattering cross-section and the interactions of antiprotons with heavy nuclei. More recent studies include careful measurements of the radiative production of hyperons in Kp and Kn interactions and radiative decay of the hyperons. Except for the very earliest experiments, all work has been in collaboration with groups at other universities and laboratories.

As a child, I loved to tinker with electromagnets, small motors, lenses, and photographic and sound equipment. Perhaps it is this early history of tinkering that has led me to devote a major part of my teaching activity to introductory physics laboratories, and to work in a research field which involves state-of-the-art computers and electronic equipment.