Pacific hosts guest physics professor to speak on the universe

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Pacific University will host Professor Shane Larson Feb. 27-28 for a series of two lectures.

Associate Director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA) at Northwestern University, the majority of Larson’s research concentrates on gravitational wave astrophysics. He focuses on data analysis with a secondary focus on cosmology, binary star evolution, gravitational dynamics in exoplanetary systems and the earth’s climate.

The first of Larson’s lectures, “Feeling Small in a Big Cosmos,” takes place Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. and will center around humanity’s ever-evolving view of the universe and the road to understanding the cosmos. The second lecture, “A Storm of Stars: The Life of the Milky Way,” takes place the following day on Feb. 28 at 4:30 p.m. and concerns the discovery of the Milky Way, as well as its structure, evolution and environs.

When asked about why Pacific faculty chose Shane Larson to be a visiting lecturer, physics Professor Danielle McDermott mentioned that Larson has, “a different perspective than any other Pacific faculty member.” This is largely due to his involvement with the world’s largest gravitational wave observatory. According to McDermott, the study of gravitational waves “is a very new field. [Larson’s] science is not done at Pacific, it’s very unique. He will present a perspective on how we can understand astronomy with a new tool.”

Larson’s upcoming lectures provide a notable opportunity not only for physics students at Pacific, but also students and faculty from other disciplines. When asked about whether or not these events are geared specifically towards physics majors at Pacific, McDermott said she would expect that any student can attend and get something out of it. “Shane does a lot of outreach and will be anticipating [various levels of understanding] as he gives this lecture,” McDermott said.

“I hope that they will gain a better sense of where they live in this universe, understanding the structure of our universe is apart from our daily life, but it is so beautiful and interesting,” McDermott said in regards to what she anticipates members of the Pacific community might get out of attending this lecture.

According to McDermott, it is not necessary for individuals to attend both lectures in order to understand the materials presented. “The evening lecture [on the 27th] will be more general; the one on the 28th will be more about the life cycle of a galaxy,” she noted.

Members of Pacific’s campus and community are encouraged to attend. The first lecture “Feeling Small in a Big Cosmos” will take place in Murdock Hall, McGill Auditorium room 118. The second lecture “A Storm of Stars: The Life of the Milky Way” will take place Strain Science Center room 121.


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