The Virginia Tech College of Science’s J. Mark Sowers Distinguished Lecture Series will host its first talk of the academic year with Nigel Lockyer, professor of physics at Cornell University, on 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 19, at the Holtzman Alumni Center’s Assembly Hall.

All talks are free and open to the public. Holtzman Alumni Center is at 901 Prices Fork Road in Blacksburg.

Lockyer is an experimental particle physicist who most recently was director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, also known as Fermilab, from 2013-22. Prior to that, he was director of TRIUMF, Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics, from 2007-13. Now a professor of physics at Cornell University, he previously was on faculty with the University of Pennsylvania and the University of British Columbia.

Lockyer’s topic will be “Particles and Accelerators are Tools: What Are They Good For?”

Of the talk, he said, “Humans have been using tools since the stone age. Today, the tools are everywhere and becoming more and more sophisticated. This talk will begin with a brief history of elementary particles and accelerators and how we use them for all sorts of things that range from manufacturing to sophisticated medical procedures to advancing science. The talk will close with some thoughts on the future of where this field is going.”

He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and a recipient of the society’s 2006 Panofsky Prize for his leading research on the bottom quark. Among his many honors: he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire on Jan. 1, 2022. He earned his bachelor's degree in physics from York University in Toronto and his Ph.D. in physics from The Ohio State University.

Lockyer was invited to give the talk by Kevin Pitts, dean of the College of Science and himself a particle physicist with the Department of Physics. Prior to coming to Virginia Tech, Pitts worked at Fermilab as its chief research officer.

“We are thrilled to have Nigel Lockyer join us for the first Sowers lecture of the new academic year. From breakthrough measurements to leadership in innovative global collaborations, he is truly a transformational figure in the physics community,” Pitts said.

The J. Mark Sowers Distinguished Lecture Series in the College of Science is a forum for the exchange of new and innovative ideas in scientific fields. The series began in February 2017.

It has attracted national and world-renowned scholars, including a laser physicist, a nanoscientist, an astrophysicist, an applied mathematician, the director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, and a statistician who specializes in machine learning. Discussions have delved into brain sciences, speech and hearing development, black holes, and more.

Generously supported by Mark and Debi Sowers, this series provides opportunities for the university community and general public to interact with and learn from eminent scholars and industry experts. Mark Sowers is a Richmond-based businessman and developer and longtime supporter of the College of Science. He sponsors the series to share with others his fascination with the sciences.

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