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Physics conference brings world's top scientists to WMU

July 9, 2009

KALAMAZOO--More than 700 scientists from around the globe, including some 350 students and postdoctoral fellows, will be on the Western Michigan University campus next month to attend the XXVI International Conference in Photonic, Electronic and Atomic Collisions.

The biennial conference, which began a half century ago, is set for Wednesday through Tuesday, July 22-28. It is being co-chaired by Drs. Nora Berrah and John Tanis, WMU professors of physics with assistance from a local organizing committee that includes three other WMU physics faculty members, Drs. Emanuel Kamber, Thomas Gorczyca and Dragan Nikolic.

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International Conference in Photonic, Electronic and Atomic Collisions

"This conference takes place around the world every two years and is typically held in cities such as Paris, London, Quebec, Vienna, New York and Seattle," Berrah says. "It was the United States' turn to host the conference this year, and it's a great honor to have had the international executive committee select Kalamazoo and WMU as the host site."

The International Conference in Photonic, Electronic and Atomic Collisions will focus on the latest research in atomic, molecular and optical physics. The event will feature plenary lectures, poster sessions, and progress and special reports as well as social outings to the Kalamazoo Air Zoo, Lake Michigan resort towns and other West Michigan attractions.

Public events

Both of the scheduled public talks are free and will take place at 7:30 p.m. in Shaw Theatre.

Thursday, July 23--Dr. Pat Dehmer, deputy director for science programs in the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science, will speak on "Facing Our Energy Challenges in a New Era of Science." Her talk will address the importance of developing alternative forms of energies in light of dwindling fossil fuel reserves and concerns about global climate change.

According to Dehmer, the energy challenges that the United States faces cannot be met by incremental improvements to existing technologies. She says transformational changes and disruptive technologies will be required to provide clean, reliable and cost-efficient solutions. Dehmer will explore the challenges and linkages to research in the physical and biological sciences that will drive many of those changes and technologies.

Friday, July 24--Dr. William Phillips, physicist and leader of the Laser Cooling and Trapping Group at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, will speak on "Time, Einstein and the Coolest Stuff in the Universe." Phillips is a Nobel laureate and widely recognized for actively engaging audiences in his talks.

His presentation is suitable for children and will address atomic clocks--one of the key scientific and technological wonders of contemporary life. Phillips will examine how cooling atoms to incredibly low temperatures not only improves the accuracy of atomic clocks, but also tests some of Einstein's strangest predictions.

WMU Department of Physics

WMU's Department of Physics specializes in numerous research areas, including astronomy; atomic, molecular and cluster physics; condensed matter physics; nuclear physics; and physics education. Both undergraduate and graduate students are involved with its research program, and both have opportunities to collaborate with physicists from other universities and national laboratories.

Departmental research is independently as well as collaboratively funded, with grant funding coming from such organizations as NASA, National Science Foundation, Research Corp. for Science Advancement, and U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.

The physics department's experimental research facilities include a Van de Graaff accelerator and a low-temperature physics laboratory. It's experimental programs also make use of large off-campus facilities, including the Hubble-oriented Space Telescope Science Institute, Michigan State University National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory; and Argonne, Brookhaven, Lawrence Berkeley and Stanford Linear Accelerator Center national laboratories.

Conference sponsors

Sponsoring the conference are the Kalamazoo County Convention and Visitors Bureau; WMU's College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Physics, Graduate College, Haenicke Institute for Global Education, and Office of the Vice President for Research; the American Physical Society, the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics, the Institute of Physics Publishing Ltd., National Electrostatics Corp., and RoentDekHandels GmbH.

More information

Visit the International Conference in Photonic, Electronic and Atomic Collisions online to register for or obtain more information about the International Conference in Photonic, Electronic and Atomic Collisions.

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Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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