• photo of Bert Wells
    Bert Wells

Member Spotlight: Bert Wells

Name: Bert Wells
Member Since: 2011
Membership Level: Annual Contributing Member
Chapter: East Coast
Job Title: Partner, Covington & Burling LLP

Tell us how you first got involved with the Caltech Associates and why supporting Caltech is important to you.

Chapter founder Phil Neches kindly invited my wife and me to what I believe were some of the first meetings of the East Coast chapter in New York. I'm eager to support Caltech financially because I earned my BS and MS there; Caltech positioned me for the next step in my career, and it's clear that scientific research and teaching are insufficiently funded. The opportunity Caltech offers for fostering continued economic and social transformation through research and education is hugely compelling.

What role does the East Coast chapter play within the Caltech Associates, and what motivated you to get involved?

My wife and I immediately found that attendees at East Coast chapter meetings were an especially interesting selection of friends and alumni of Caltech. The scientific programs that accompanied each meeting were also exceptionally absorbing. Since we were eager to provide financial support to Caltech too, we were quickly drawn to join the Caltech Associates.

Outside of your involvement with the Caltech Associates East Coast chapter, what do you do?

I practice law at Covington & Burling LLP, where I represent commercial policyholders in recovering their claims from property and casualty insurers. I am a trustee at the New York Hall of Science in Queens, the city's only hands-on science museum and the host of the annual World Maker Fair. I love opera and classical music, play squash, collect wine, and enjoy cooking at home with my family.

What might we be surprised to know about you?

I was an avid harpist for about 25 years, playing orchestral and chamber music and solo recitals. A recital I once played at Caltech many years ago was even broadcast nationally by NPR. 

Do you have a favorite Caltech memory, story, or moment?

There were some wonderful instances of great scientific achievement that occurred while I was a Caltech student that became memorable public events there. For one, I was living on the Caltech campus during the summer of 1976, when Viking 1 lander landed on Mars, and television coverage of the event was running all day and night at the Student Center, with transmission of the first photograph taken from the Martian surface being a great highlight.  Everyone on campus was electrified by the experience, and that shared enthusiasm was unforgettable. Another instance was a lecture given in Beckman Auditorium about the discovery of the J/psi particle at SLAC in November 1974. The event was held almost immediately after the discovery was announced, with Feynman and Gell-Mann (among many other leading physicists) in the audience. The entire Caltech campus had been invited to the lecture in light of the evident importance of the discovery. The excitement of the moment and the sense of emergent new discovery in physics were palpable. Such exceptional moments, shared with others who were just as moved by them, were some of my favorites at Caltech.