Physics and Astronomy
Department Chair:
Stephen FitzGerald

Administrative Assistant:
Diane Doman

Department Email:

Phone: (440) 775-8330
Fax: (440) 775-6379

Wright Laboratory of Physics
110 N. Professor St.
Oberlin, OH, 44074

Physics and Astronomy Lecture Series

Physics and Astronomy Lecture Series



28 (Thursday) 4:35 pm

Speaker:  Chris Mihos, Professor, Department of Astronomy, Case Western Reserve University
Title: Tracing Evolution in the Outskirts of the Pinwheel Galaxy
Abstract:  The nearby Pinwheel Galaxy (M101) represents one of our best opportunities to study galaxy evolution in detail.  Using both ground-based data and Hubble Space Telescope observations, we can probe the ages and chemical composition of stars in the galaxy's extended outer disk, a sensitive tracer of its evolutionary history.  In conjunction with computer simulations, Professor Mihos will demonstrate how the galaxy's outer disk continues to grow via repeated interactions with neighboring galaxies in the group environment.
Location:  Wright 201
Reception:  4:10 pm, Anderson Lounge


26 (Thursday) 4:35 pm

Speaker:  Susannah Burrows, OC '05, Earth Systems Analysis & Modeling Scientist, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Title: Climate and Earth System Models: Understanding the Earth's Past, Present, and Future
Abstract:  Climate change is frequently in the news, with growing concerns about current and future impacts on agriculture, human health, public infrastructure, and more.  But what do scientists really know about the physical mechanisms driving climate change, and how are these future projections made?

This seminar will provide an introduction to the history of human-caused climate change and the key physical mechanisms that control the Earth’s climate.  Burrows will also discuss how climate scientists around the world today use computational Global Climate and Earth System Models to understand and predict the impacts of human behavior and natural processes on Earth’s past, present, and future climate.
Location:  Wright 201
Reception:  4:10 pm, Anderson Lounge


2 (Thursday) 4:35 pm

Speaker:  Chris Kelly, OC '03, Assistant Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Wayne State University
Title: Nanoscale Membrane Curvature Revealed by Super-resolution Microscopy
Abstract:  Many essential biological processes occur at length scales that are unresolvable by conventional optical microscopes. We have combined super-resolution microscopy methods to measure the interdependence of molecular organization, lipid phases, and curvature on biological membranes. We have measured membrane curvature as small as 20 nm radii of curvature, measured curvature-induced molecular sorting, and a local change in the local membrane viscosity. Further, we have discovered that the membrane-binding toxin of cholera self-assembles to form nanoscale membrane buds to facilitate its immobilization and internalization into cells. We will discuss the physics of polarized localization microscopy and the mechanisms by which cholera toxin bends membranes.
Location:  Wright 201
Reception:  4:15 pm, Anderson Lounge

28 (Tuesday) 4:35 pm

Speaker:  Jim Walsh, Professor, Department of Mathematics, Oberlin College
Title: What Happens if You Periodically Force a Nonlinear Oscillator?
Abstract:  As the damped case is covered in Phys 310, Professor Walsh will focus on undamped and periodically forced nonlinear oscillators.  In this setting, the forced oscillator can exhibit a stunning mix of regular and chaotic motions.  A simple model - having its roots in Oberlin's Physics and Astronomy Department - will be used to illuminate the theory of Kolmogorov, Arnol'd and Moser, the profound 20th century mathematical achievement that resolved deep questions related to such forced oscillators.  Additionally KAM theory will be placed within its historical context, namely, the quest to determine the stability of the solar system.
Location:  Wright 201
Reception:  4:15 pm, Anderson Lounge


15 (Thursday) 4:35 pm

Speaker:  Tom Giblin, Associate Professor, Department of Physics, Kenyon College
Title: Desperate Measures (in Desperate Times)
Abstract:  We find ourselves in the so-called “Golden Age” of particle physics. Ours is a time in which the largest, most sophisticated, and most expensive experiments in history are returning the most precise measurements ever. However, our “Golden Age” is starting to look tarnished; the concordance among these experiments continues to show consistency with a model of particle physics (and hence, of the Universe) that we know is wrong. In this talk I will discuss this staggering dilemma and show how our research group is making some progress in trying to confront these failures of success.
Location:  Wright 201
Reception:  4:10 pm, Anderson Lounge

Department of Physics and Astronomy Lecture Series speakers from past years.