Adkins addresses issues in fundamental physics

BY RUMIT GAMBHIR ’15
Contributing Writer

Gregory Adkins, William G. and Elizabeth R. Simeral professor of physics, spoke at Common Hour Thursday.

Adkins came to F&M 29 years ago, after receiving a B.A. degree summa cum laude in physics and math from UCLA, where he stayed to complete his Ph.D. In his several decades of dedication to physics, he has published more than 50 articles on aspects of quantum field theory, positronium, and gravitation; one of them is on a prestigious list of the all-time highest-cited articles in energy physics. He was elected a fellow of the American Physical Society in 1998 and recently became a recipient of the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Lecture for Distinguished Teaching Award.

Adkins was aptly described as “a brilliant, modest star” by the person who introduced him. The first thing he spoke about when he took the stage was his students and how many of them have reached so far ahead in life. He spoke very highly of them, saying how they were brilliant, and acknowledged their efforts in helping him with several of the papers he published. One of them he held in very high regard was Ted Boyer, who was the first student to come up with an idea for research that later ended up getting published in a paper he and Adkins worked on together.

After giving an example, Adkins left students with a very important message.

“Be curious, ask questions. If you don’t know how to answer certain questions, take your time to learn the skills necessary to do so,” Adkins said.

Adkins then proceeded to talk about the challenges that physics faces in the modern world. The recently talked about ‘Higgs Boson’ was something Adkins discussed for a long time. He elaborated on what exactly happens inside a ‘hadron collider’ and how researchers end up seeing the experimental results they do. To accompany his lecture, he had some helpful Powerpoint slides, which assisted the audience in seeing exactly what was going on inside this huge machine and made the audience appreciate the vastness of this apparatus.

Throughout his speech, Adkins kept the audience keenly listening by displaying a strong sense of humor. For instance, while talking about ‘dark matter’ and ‘dark energy’ he spoke about how a lot of it is still “kept us in the dark.” Adkins’ speech ended with a loud round of applause, as well as a standing ovation. He even answered some very well constructed questions asked by students and faculty who were part of the audience. Adkins talk was captivating and inspiring, emanating modesty, hard work, intelligence, and humor.

Questions? Email Rumit at rgambhir@fandm.edu.

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