I heard of Jeff Kimble long before I met him in person. Legend had it that he was extremely rigorous with research and very tough on nonsense. So when I decided to approach him in October of 1996, at the annual OSA meeting in Rochester for a possible postdoc position, I was as nervous as I was excited. As a graduate student, I had learned theory of quantum optics from Marlan Scully, and learned advanced experimental techniques from Jan Hall. The experiences working with Jan laid a critical foundation for my scientific work. Likewise, Jeff had spent a sabbatical with Jan in 1985 that enabled their work on squeezing, as well as Jeff’s subsequent research in cavity QED, which provided me some comfort with this tall stranger. But, here was a guy who dealt with the annihilation operator as deftly in the lab as on paper; so I was hesitant. Then I listened to Jeff’s lecture on flying qubits and single-photon quantum logic gates – his speech for the Max Born Award. Armed with courage after surviving my own very first invited talk at OSA, I decided to give it a try.
I still remember most of our discussions from that first meeting, but none is as clear as my recollection of the pain from Jeff’s handshake. His grip was more than just firm; it actually squeezed the bones of my hand. So naturally, I took the handshake as a sign that he really wanted me to join his group. When an offer of a Caltech fellowship arrived three months later, I accepted it without hesitation. In 1997, I had no way of knowing that Jeff’s way of doing science would leave a profound mark on my career and that his deep friendship would continue to enrich my life and that of my family for many years.