Special lecture

Special lectures hosted by the Physics Department.

Nobel Prize Winner, Professor Adam Riess, Katzenstein Distinguished Lecturer

The University of Connecticut, Department of Physics is proud to announce the 26th Annual Katzenstein Distinguished Lecturer that will be on Friday, November 15th. The details of the lecture TBA

Adam Riess is a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor, the Thomas J. Barber Professor in Space Studies at the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins University, a distinguished astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He received his bachelor’s degree in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1992 and his PhD from Harvard University in 1996. His research involves measurements of the cosmological framework with supernovae (exploding stars) and Cepheids (pulsating stars). Currently, he leads the SHOES Team in efforts to improve the measurement of the Hubble Constant and the Higher-z Team to find and measure the most distant type Ia supernovae known to probe the origin of cosmic acceleration.

In 2011, he was named a co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics and was awarded the Albert Einstein Medal for his leadership in the High-z Supernova Search Team’s discovery that the expansion rate of the universe is accelerating, a phenomenon widely attributed to a mysterious, unexplained “dark energy” filling the universe. The discovery was named by Science magazine in 1998 as “the Breakthrough Discovery of the Year.” His accomplishments have been recognized with a number of other awards, including a MacArthur Fellowship in 2008, the Gruber Foundation Cosmology Prize in 2007 (shared), and the Shaw Prize in Astronomy in 2006.

Nobel Prize Winner, Professor Gérard Mourou, Katzenstein Distinguished Lecturer

The University of Connecticut, Department of Physics, is proud to announce that on October 20, 2023, Gérard Mourou, professor and member of Haut Collège at the École Polytechnique and A. D. Moore Distinguished University Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan and 2018 Nobel Prize winner, will be presenting the 25th Distinguished Katzenstein Lecture.

For the details of the lecture, see Physics Events Calendar

Gérard Mourou received his undergraduate education at the University of Grenoble (1967) and his Ph.D. from University Paris VI in 1973. He has made numerous contributions to the field of ultrafast lasers, high-speed electronics, and medicine. But, his most important invention, demonstrated with his student Donna Strickland while at the University of Rochester (N.Y.), is the laser amplification technique known as Chirped Pulse Amplification (CPA), universally used today. CPA revolutionized the field of optics, opening new branches like attosecond pulse generation, Nonlinear QED, and compact particle accelerators. It extended the field of optics to nuclear and particle physics. In 2005, Prof. Mourou proposed a new infrastructure, the Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI), which is distributed over three pillars located in the Czech Republic, Romania, and Hungary. Prof. Mourou also pioneered the field of femtosecond ophthalmology that relies on a CPA femtosecond laser for precise myopia corrections and corneal transplants. Over a million such procedures are now performed annually. Prof. Mourou is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, and a foreign member of the Russian Science Academy, the Austrian Sciences Academy, and the Lombardy Academy for Sciences and Letters. He is Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur.

Visit by Dr. Sylvester James Gates

The University of Connecticut Department of Physics is pleased to announce the upcoming colloquium by Dr. Sylvester James Gates Jr. on November 18th in Gant West 002 from 3:30-4:45PM. Dr. Gates is a theoretical high-energy physicist who has made significant, pioneering contributions to supersymmetry, supergravity, and superstring theory. His colloquium will concern the ongoing efforts to construct a mathematical foundation for supersymmetry (SUSY).

Alongside the colloquium, there will be additional events during Dr. Gates’s visit, organized by the Physics Diversity and Multiculturalism Committee with help from the Physics Graduate Student Association:

  • Undergraduate and graduate physics students are encouraged to attend a lunch meet and greet with Dr. Gates from 12:15 to 1:15 pm in Gant South room 117, where pizza will be provided.
  • Students, postdocs, and faculty from all departments are all encouraged to attend a DEI panel discussion: “Bringing Diversity into the Physical Sciences,” featuring Dr. Gates as well as faculty from multiple departments in CLAS at UConn. The panel will take place in Gant South rooms 117 and 119 from 1:30 to 2:30 pm.

List of Panelist Speakers: 

  • Prof. Jim Gates – Clark Leadership Chair in Science, Distinguished University Professor and Regents Professor, University of Maryland

  • Prof. Ronald Mallett – Professor Emeritus and Research Professor, Department of Physics 

  • Prof. Nora Berrah – Professor, Physics Department 

  • Prof. Amy Howell – Professor, Chemistry Department 

  • Prof. Marisa Chrysochoou – Professor and Department Head, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering 

  • Prof. Masha Gordina – Professor, Department of Mathematics 

Professor Gates Bio:

Gates received Bachelor of Science degrees in both physics and mathematics and a Ph.D. in physics from MIT. At the University of Maryland, he became the first African American to hold an endowed chair in physics at a major U.S. research university. Gates is the past president of the American Physical Society (APS), a role to which he was elected in 2019. He has received numerous awards and accolades, including the 2013 Mendel Medal and the 2013 National Medal of Science from former President Barack Obama. In 2013, he was also elected to the National Academy of Sciences, becoming its first African American theoretical physicist recognized in its 150-year-old history. He also served on former President Barack Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. In addition, Gates has just been named as the 2023 recipient of the prestigious Hans Christian Oersted Medal, presented by the AAPT in honor of his outstanding leadership and impact in physics education.

Dr. Gates was until very recently the Theoretical Physics Center Director, Ford Foundation Professor of Physics, and Affiliate Mathematics Professor at Brown University. He has since moved back to Maryland where he is the Clark Leadership Chair in Science, Distinguished University Professor and Regents Professor at the University of Maryland.

Nobel Prize Winner, Professor Donna Strickland , Katzenstein Distinguished Lecturer

The University of Connecticut, Department of Physics, is proud to announce that on September 23, 2022, Professor Donna Strickland of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Waterloo will be presenting the 2020 Distinguished Katzenstein Lecture. Prof. D. Strickland Prof. Strickland is one of the recipients of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics for developing chirped pulse amplification with Gérard Mourou, her PhD supervisor. They published this Nobel-winning research in 1985 when Strickland was a PhD student at the University of Rochester in New York State. Together they paved the way for the most intense laser pulses ever created. The research has several applications today in industry and medicine, including the cutting of a patient’s cornea in laser eye surgery and the machining of small glass parts for use in cell phones.

Prof. Strickland earned a Bachelor in Engineering from McMaster University and a PhD in optics from the University of Rochester. She was a research associate at the National Research Council Canada, a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and a member of technical staff at Princeton University. In 1997, she joined the University of Waterloo, where her ultrafast laser group develops high-intensity laser systems for nonlinear optics investigations. She is a recipient of a Sloan Research Fellowship, the Ontario Premier’s Research Excellence Award, and a Cottrell Scholar Award. She received the Rochester Distinguished Scholar Award and the Eastman Medal from the University of Rochester.

Prof. Strickland served as the president of the Optical Society (OSA) in 2013 and is a fellow of OSA, the Royal Society of Canada, and SPIE (International Society for Optics and Photonics). She is an honorary fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Physics. She received the Golden Plate Award from the Academy of Achievement, is in the International Women’s Forum Hall of Fame, and holds numerous honorary doctorates.

Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell – 2019 Katzenstein Lecturer

The UConn Physics Department is delighted to announce that our 2019 Distinguished Katzenstein Lecturer will be

Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell
Friday, November 8th, 2019
04:00 PM – 05:00 PM
Storrs Campus, Student Union Theater

Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell (pictured at left) is world-famous for her discovery of pulsars in 1967. Pulsars are a special type of neutron star, the rotating dense remnant of a massive star. Pulsars have highly magnetic surfaces and emit a beam of electromagnetic radiation along their poles. This beam of light moves into and out of our line-of-sight at quick, constant intervals, appearing as a regular “pulse” of light.

At the time of this discovery, Bell Burnell was a graduate student at the University of Cambridge and worked with her supervisor, Anthony Hewish, to construct the Interplanetary Scintillation Array to study another class of objects called quasars. In the course of her daily detailed analysis, she noticed a strange “pulsing” signal in her data. Jokingly dubbed “Little Green Man 1” (LGM-1), further data-taking and analysis revealed this signal to be rapidly spinning neutron star, eventually dubbed a “pulsar.”

Bell Burnell’s discovery is considered one of the most important achievements of the 20th century and was recognized by a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1974, awarded to her supervisor Anthony Hewish as well as to astronomer Martin Ryle. While many condemned the omission of Bell Burnell for the award, she rose above, graciously stating, “I believe it would demean Nobel Prizes if they were awarded to research students, except in very exceptional cases, and I do not believe this is one of them. Finally, I am not myself upset about it – after all, I am in good company, am I not!”

Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell has a highly distinguished career. Some notable highlights include serving as head of the Royal Astronomical Society and as the first female president of both the Institute of Physics and The Royal Society of Edinburgh. She was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to astronomy in 2007. Her story has been featured in a number of works, including the BBC Four’s Beautiful Minds and BBC Two’s Horizon. Bell Burnell is currently the chancellor of the University of Dundee in Scotland and a visiting professor of astrophysics at the University of Oxford.

In 2018 Bell Burnell was awarded a Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. Only four such prizes have been awarded, one to Stephen Hawking, one to the CERN scientists who discovered the Higgs Boson, and one to the LIGO team for their detection of gravitational waves. This award recognizes her discovery of pulsars and “a lifetime of inspiring scientific leadership.” In addition to her research accolades, her teaching, leadership, and work to lift up women and minorities in science is without parallel.

2019 Pollack Lecture

On April 11th and 12 of 2019 Prof. Paul Corkum of the Joint Attosecond Laboratory (University of Ottawa and the National Research Council of Canada) visited the department. Prof. Corkum’s main area of research is on the interaction of ultrashort laser pulses with matter broadly defined. His most notable contribution is perhaps the discovery of the so-called three-step model, which has become the basis of the emerging field of attosecond science. Attoseconds, equal to 1 billionth of 1 billionth of a second (10-18 s) is the shortest time scale ever measured or controlled by humans and is at the forefront of modern optics.

Prof. Corkum is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences, the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the Royal Canadian Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society of London. He has received many accolades throughout his career, including the Thomson Reuters Citation Laureate which is awarded to researchers who are “of Nobel class” and likely to earn the Nobel someday and the Order of Canada.

On April 12, Prof. Corkum presented the annual Edward Pollack Distinguished Lecture, entitled “Attosecond Pulses Generated in Gases and Solids”. This lecture is supported by an endowment established by the family of the late Professor Edward Pollack in 2005. Ed’s family, friends and colleagues made contributions in his memory. This special colloquium provides a presentation in Ed’s honor in the field of atomic, molecular and optical physics, his area of research expertise. This year Mrs. Rita Pollack and their three children: Cindy [U.S. Government civil servant], Lois [now a professor of applied physics at Cornell], and Howard [professor of modern languages (German) at dePauw University in Indiana] were all in attendance.

Below, dinner with the Pollack family members, UConn faculty, and guests.

Clockwise from left: Victoria Starzef, George Gibson, Win Smith, Anne Smith, Margaret Kessel, Quentin Kessel, Nadia Corkum, Paul Corkum, Robin Côté, Lois Pollack, Cindy Blazar, Rita Pollack, Howard Pollack-Milgate, Sophie Pollack-Milgate, and Sarah Trallero


Charles Reynolds Lecture 2018: Prof Andrew Millis

The 2018 Reynolds lecture speaker was Prof Andrew Millis, a Professor of Physics at Columbia University and a co-Director of Center for Computational Quantum Physics at the Flatiron Institute. Dr. Millis’s research focus is theoretical condensed matter physics. He is the leading authority in theory of correlated materials, application of new theoretical ideas to actual experiments on novel materials including high temperature superconductors. His theory of ‘colossal’ magnetoresistance seen in manganites has been the key theoretical advance that enabled a complete understanding of these materials. Andrew has also been working on quasi one-dimensional conductors and heavy fermion compounds. The lecture, entitled “Meeting Dirac’s challenge: from quantum entanglement to materials theory” presented a broad-stroke account of developments in humankind’s capability of explaining and predicting materials properties through advanced computational approaches.

Dirac wrote 90 years ago: “The underlying physical laws necessary for the mathematical theory of a large part of physics and the whole of chemistry are thus completely known, and the difficulty is only that the exact application of these laws leads to equations much too complicated to be soluble. It therefore becomes desirable that approximate practical methods of applying quantum mechanics should be developed, which can lead to an explanation of the main features of complex atomic systems without too much computation.’’ Professor Millis described the development of the new computational tools to meet the challenge laid out by Dirac in our quest for effective predictive tools for quantum materials. Center for Computational Quantum Physics, The Flatiron Institute is superbly positioned to address this challenge. The lecture was held on March 15 2019 and was well attended with a large number of undergraduate and graduate students present.

Contributed by Alexander Balatsky, edited by Jason Hancock

Professor Rainer Weiss: Katzenstein Distinguished Lecture

The Katzenstein Distinguished Lectures series continued in the 2018 academic year with its twenty second Nobel Laureate lecturer, with an October 26, 2018 lecture by Professor Rainer Weiss of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The title of Professor Weiss’ talk was “Exploration of the Universe with Gravitational Waves”, with abstract:

The observations of gravitational waves from the merger of binary black holes and from a binary neutron star coalescence followed by a set of astronomical measurements is an example of investigating the universe by “multi-messenger” astronomy. Gravitational waves will allow us to observe phenomena we already know in new ways as well as to test General Relativity in the limit of strong gravitational interactions – the dynamics of massive bodies traveling at relativistic speeds in a highly curved space-time. Since the gravitational waves are due to accelerating masses while electromagnetic waves are caused by accelerating charges, it is reasonable to expect new classes of sources to be detected by gravitational waves as well. The lecture will start with some basic concepts of gravitational waves, briefly describe the instruments and the methods for data analysis that enable the measurement of gravitational wave strains of one part in 10 to the 21, and then present the results of recent runs. The lecture will end with a vision for the future of gravitational wave astrophysics and astronomy.

Students discuss gravitational waves with Prof. Weiss (MIT) following lecture

In 2017 Professor Weiss shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Professor Kip Thorne and Professor Barry Barish for their epochal discovery of gravitational waves, waves that had been predicted by Albert Einstein using his General Theory of Relativity no less than a hundred years before.

Professor Rainer Weiss received his BS degree from MIT in 1955 and his PhD from MIT in 1962. He was on the faculty of Tufts University from 1960 to 1962, and did post-doctoral research at Princeton from 1962 to 1964. He joined the MIT faculty in 1964 and remained a regular faculty member there until he became emeritus in 2001. Along with Kip Thorne, the late Ronald Drever and Barry Barish he spearheaded the development of LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, a set of two interferometers, one located in Louisiana and the other in Washington State. The interferometers would jointly look for gravitational wave signals seen in coincidence, and in September 2015 made the very first detection of gravity waves. At Louisiana State University he has served as an Adjunct Professor of Physics since 2001. As well as research in gravity waves Professor Weiss’ other primary interests are in atomic clocks and cosmic microwave background measurements.

Dr. Weiss had previously visited the University of Connecticut in Fall 2015 as part of a lecture series that fall given at the University of Connecticut in commemoration of the hundredth year of Einstein’s development of his Theory of General Relativity. At that time Dr. Weiss described the ongoing search at LIGO for gravity waves produced by the merger of two black holes. And the initial announcement of a discovery was made in February 2016, shortly after Dr. Weiss’s visit to the University of Connecticut. It is also of interest to note that Dr. Shep Doeleman of Harvard University was another of the speakers at the Fall 2015 University of Connecticut Einstein commemoration. He talked about the ongoing effort to actually detect the event horizons associated with black holes using the Event Horizon Telescope, black holes being yet another prediction of Einstein’s Theory that was also one hundred years old. And in 2019 Dr. Doeleman announced the very the first direct detection of a black hole event horizon. Thus, with the first detection of gravity waves produced by black hole mergers and then the detection of an event horizon itself, the theory of black holes is put on a very secure observational foundation. This lecture can be viewed: https://www.uctv14.com/ucspanblog/2018/12/10/katzenstein-distinguished-lecture-october-26th-2018?rq=Katzenstein

21st Annual Katzenstein Distinguished Lecture

Monday, March 26, 2018

The 21st Annual Katzenstein Distinguished Lecture was hosted by the UConn Physics Department, featuring Dr. Takaaki Kajita, 2015 Nobel Prize Winner from the University of Tokyo, speaking on “Oscillating Neutrinos.”  After the lecture,  a banquet with the speaker was held for members and guests of the department. We enjoyed welcoming alumni and visitors to the department for this special occasion, made possible by a generous gift from UConn Physics alumnus Henry Katzenstein and his family.

Video recording of the lecture

Katzenstein lecture 2018

Katzenstein lecture brings Nobel Laureat, UConn alumni to Storrs

Leon Cooper
Leon Cooper, 1972 Nobel Laureat delivered the Distinguished Katzenstein lecture at UConn in October, 2016

The Katzenstein Distinguished Lectures series continued in Fall 2016 for its 19th year, with an October 28, 2016 lecture by Professor Leon N. Cooper of Brown University, entitled “On the Interpretation of the Quantum Theory: Can Free Will And Locality Exist Together In The Quantum Theory?” Professor Cooper shared the 1972 Nobel Prize in Physics with Professors J. Bardeen and J. R. Schrieffer. The Nobel Prize was awarded for the first microscopic theory of superconductivity, now known as the BCS Theory. Superconductivity as evidenced by the disappearance of electrical resistivity was first observed in Mercury by Kamerlingh Onnes in 1911. Immediately, many theorists including Albert Einstein, set out to explain this newly observed phenomena. However it was not until 1933 that the essential property of magnetic flux exclusion was observed by Meissner and Ochsenfeld. No successful microscopic theory was developed until the 1957 Physical Review Paper that developed the BCS theory. A crucial element for the theory was published in a short letter to the Physical Review in 1956 by Leon Cooper, entitled ‘Bound Electron Pairs, in a degenerate Fermi Gas’. These pairs are now commonly referred to as ‘Cooper Pairs’.

The 2016 lecture took place in Physics Building Lecture Room P-36, and an excellent attendance included physics undergraduates, graduate students, faculty from Physics and other departments, and a number of UConn Physics alumni. Prior to the lecture, Professor Cooper met informally with Physics students in the Physics Library, and then met people at a reception that preceded the lecture. Following the lecture, Professor Cooper joined with Henry Katzenstein’s son David, a Professor at Stanford Medical School, along with faculty, staff, alumni and guests for a gala dinner at the University of Connecticut’s Foundation Building. The Katzenstein Lectures are made possible by an endowment established by the late Dr. Henry S. Katzenstein and his wife Dr. Constance A. Katzenstein. Cornell Professor David Lee (1996 Nobel Laureate in Physics and 1956 M. S. alumnus of UConn) gave the first lecture of the current series of annual lectures by Nobel Laureates, in 1997. Henry Katzenstein received the very first Ph.D. in physics from our Department in 1954 after only three years as a graduate student here.


Katzenstein lecture 2016
UConn Physics lecture hall PB-36 filled for 2016 Katzenstein Distinguished Lecture



This story was published in the University of Connecticut 2017 Annual Newsletter.