In memoriam: Philip Karl “P.K.” Williams

Philip Karl (P.K.) Williams

Family, friends and colleagues mourn the death from cancer of the Department of Energy’s Phillip Karl “P.K.” Williams in the Washington, D.C., area on Jan. 19. He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Sammye, three sons and many grandchildren.

He was born Nov. 16, 1939, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and obtained a bachelor’s degree in physics from Rice University in 1961. His Ph.D. was obtained under Don Lichtenberg at Indiana University in 1965, after which P.K. took a position as research associate with Marc Ross at the University of Michigan. In 1967, he moved to Florida State University in Tallahassee as an assistant professor and was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 1973. At FSU, he was best known for his work in pion physics (π-π scattering) with absorption that came to be known as the Williams Model.

In 1979, he decided to move to the Department of Energy, Division of High Energy Physics located in Germantown, Maryland — near Washington, D.C. He soon became the head of the university program until he retired in late 2008.

His main responsibility at the DOE became serving as head of the yearly $100 million university research program in HEP for almost 30 years. His other duties involved serving as executive secretary of the HEP Advisory Panel, executive secretary of the U.S.-Russia Joint Coordinating Committee on Fundamental Properties of Matter, executive secretary of the U.S.-Japan Committee on HEP and as the chair of the Scientific Assessment Group for Experiments in Non-Accelerator Physics.

He was a faithful steward of the university HEP program at the DOE, through good times and bad, and remained a helpful and supportive leader of the university research community, gaining high marks and great respect from that group. In 2003, he was elected fellow of the American Physical Society. We will all miss his grace, civility and immense integrity during his service as champion of university funding at the DOE.

Kathleen R. Turner contributed this tribute on behalf of P.K.’s family, friends and colleagues. She is the program manager for the cosmic frontier in the Department of Energy Office of High Energy Physics.