Aldo Antonelli Memorial Fund
I began my PhD under the supervision of G. Aldo Antonelli, who suddenly passed away in the October, 2015. Aldo was a role model for me as a scholar, teacher, and person. The UC Davis Philosophy Department has set up a memorial fund in his name to support graduate students working in logic and philosophy of logic. For further information about this fund or how to make a contribution, click here.
My grandparents, John J. Sopka (1919-2014) and Katherine J. Sopka (1921-2009), both led truly fascinating lives. Although neither came from families of pedigree (academic or otherwise), they were introduced to each other by Nobel Prize winner John Van Vleck, when they were both studying physics at Harvard. Ultimately, my grandfather went on to complete his PhD in Mathematics at Harvard under Garrett Birkhoff writing a dissertation titled "On the Characterization of Reynolds Operators on the Normed Ring of All Continuous Real-Valued functions Defined on a Compact Hausdorff Space". My grandmother eventually completed her PhD in the History of Science at Harvard under Gerald Holton with a dissertation titled "Quantum Physics in America: 1920-1935" later published as a book.
Graduating magna cum laude, he was awarded the prestigious Parker Fellowship intending to study under Marshall Stone. Upon their graduation in 1942, with the world embroiled in World War II, further academic study for both was interrupted and they eventually ended up in Dayton, Ohio where John joined a team of radio-chemistry researchers at the top-secret site called the "Bonebrake Theological Seminary" developing an efficient process for extracting and purifying highly concentrated polonium. After the existence of the site was declassified, my grandmother and my mother, Elisabeth Sopka, recounted his experiences in "The Bonebrake Theological Seminary: Top-Secret Manhattan Project Site" (Physics in Perspective, 2010).
Immediately after the end of the war in 1945, John and Katherine returned to Harvard to resume their postgraduate studies, Katherine in physics and John in mathematics. John was torn between his desire to work under Marshall Stone who had since left Harvard for the University of Chicago and his need for the fellowship support and eventually completed his thesis with Birkhoff in 1951. Katherine completed was awarded her masters degree in 1946 after the birth of their second child.
These stories account for only a small portion of the adventures they had in their amazing lives. I have fond memories of childhood visits to their home in Colorado, where we would catch a glimpse of their remarkable lives. We would visit the llama farm owned by their good friend (and UFO researcher!) Roy Craig. On two occasions (first in 1966 and again in 1982), they moved to Switzerland for visiting academic positions in Geneva, where my grandfather gained significant experience as a mountaineer. Indeed, my own passion for rock climbing is, in large part, inspired by my grandfather. During his time in Switzerland, my grandfather successfully led an unexperienced friend to summit the Matterhorn. During this expedition, they were caught in an unexpected storm that left them stranded overnight on the mountain. He also made several other notable summits around the Southwest of the United States, while living in Colorado. Some of these experiences were published in the Notes on Climbs and Expeditions in the American Alpine Journal. Although he was himself Catholic, my grandfather became embroiled in a lawsuit with the archdiocese of Boston. This followed from a contract dispute with Boston College after the completion of some work on their computer systems that he had completed on behalf of Bell Labs that he had been assured would roll-over into a tenured faculty position. He sued and was awarded $1 when he won the lawsuit. The most noteworthy moment of the trial came when my grandfather's lawyer was "condemned to hell" by the lawyer for the archdiocese during the proceedings.
All the other things:
I have an Erdös number of 5. Outside of philosophy, I am an avid rock climber and a former member of the US National Badminton Team.
Everything else you might want to know about me is available in the animated fMRI image taken by my friend Shrinath Kadamangudi: