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Q&A: Richard Robinett on David Bohm and Penn State’s connection to Oppenheimer

25 September 2023

Professor Emeritus of Physics Richard Robinett recently explained Penn State alumnus David Bohm’s connection to J. Robert Oppenheimer and the David Bohm Award for undergraduate physics majors.

David Bohm
David Bohm. Credit: unknown photographer, attribution, via Wikimedia Commons

“David Bohm was an undergraduate at Penn State who went on to study under J. Robert Oppenheimer,” Robinett said. “The physics department honors an undergraduate student who has leadership, outreach, research, or other experience beyond scholarship, and recent winners have had a diverse set of outcomes including graduate school, industry, and the Peace Corps.”


Q: Who was David Bohm?

A: David Bohm was an undergraduate at Penn State in the 1930s, who after graduating with an undergraduate degree in physics went on to study at the California Institute for Technology and the University of California, Berkley, for his doctorate, where he studied under J. Robert Oppenheimer.  


Q: What was the impact of Bohm’s work?

A: David Bohm made seminal contributions across several areas of physics, including the subfields of quantum mechanics and plasma physics. He also broadened out into philosophy and neuroscience.  


Q: What is Penn State’s connection to Oppenheimer?

A: The main connection that Penn State has is that Bohm studied under Oppenheimer at the University of California, Berkley.  


Q: Why does the physics department have the Bohm award?

A: The Bohm Award replaced the Jean Bennett Award in 2011 and is given to a graduating senior physics major who has excelled academically and who has made contributions to Penn State outside the classroom in areas such as research or service to Penn State at the department, college, or University level.