Where Will Physics and Astronomy Be in 100 Years?

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Where Will Physics and Astronomy Be in 100 Years?

Meet the 2022 Physics Congress centennial session speakers


Mikayla Cleaver, SPS Programs Coordinator

To celebrate 100 years of momentum with Sigma Pi Sigma, a special centennial session at the 2022 Physics Congress will feature four giants in the fields of physics and astronomy who are great friends of SPS, each responding to the same question: Where will physics and astronomy be in 100 years?

DAME JOCELYN BELL BURNELL is perhaps best known for her 1967 discovery of radio pulsars. In 2018 she was awarded the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for her discovery. She donated the award money to fund women, underrepresented, and refugee students to become physics researchers through the Institute of Physics. Bell Burnell received her bachelor’s degree in natural philosophy (physics) in 1965 from the University of Glasgow and earned a PhD from the University of Cambridge in 1969. She served as president of the Institute of Physics in 2008 and 2010 and is currently an astrophysics professor at the University of Oxford and a fellow at Mansfield College.

DR. ERIC CORNELL was awarded the Physics Nobel Prize in 2001, alongside Wolfgang Ketterle and Carl Wieman, for his role in synthesizing the first Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC). He graduated from Stanford University in 1985 and went on to earn a PhD at MIT. After completing his degree, Cornell joined Carl Wieman’s lab at the University of Colorado Boulder as a postdoc on a small laser-cooling experiment. This started him on the path that led to his Nobel Prize work. Cornell is currently a professor at CU Boulder and a physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology Boulder campus.

DR. SYLVESTER JAMES “JIM” GATES Jr. is a theoretical physicist studying supersymmetry, supergravity, and superstring theory. Gates received two bachelor’s degrees from MIT, one in math and one in physics, in 1973. He continued his education at MIT, receiving his PhD in 1977 for work on supersymmetry. He released the first comprehensive book on the topic in 1984. Gates is currently a physics and math professor at Brown University and director of the Brown Theoretical Physics Center. He is also serving as president of the American Physical Society.

DR. JOHN MATHER was awarded the Physics Nobel Prize in 2006, alongside George Smoot, for his work on the Cosmic Background Explorer satellite (COBE). Mather received a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1968 from Swarthmore College, after which he attended the University of California, Berkeley, receiving his PhD in physics in 1974. He is currently a senior astrophysicist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, where he serves as head of the James Webb Space Telescope project. He is also an adjunct physics professor at the University of Maryland. Through the John and Jane Mather Foundation for Science and the Arts, Mather and his wife support SPS summer internships on Capitol Hill for physics undergraduates interested in science policy.

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