More than 900 Public Forum Attendees Explore the Universe’s Mysteries at A&M-CC

Published: May 23, 2017

More than 900 Public Forum Attendees Explore the Universe’s Mysteries at A&M-CC


CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Inspiring the next great generation of physicists, Adam Riess and David J. Gross discussed their research achievements and described their path to winning a Nobel Prize to more than 900 Coastal Bend community members during two free public forums on Tuesday, May 23 at 9:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. Both forums took place in the University Center, Anchor Ballrooms at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

“I’m really looking forward to hearing speakers of such a high scientific prestige talk and explain the discoveries they’ve made,” said Catherine Grahm, a sophomore from Three Rivers High School located about an hour north of Corpus Christi. “Most kids like myself come from very small communities around the area, without this event it would be difficult if not impossible to get an experience like this.”

The morning forum featured more than 500 students from schools throughout the Coastal Bend including, Pawnee Junior High School, Freer High School, Aqua Dulce High School, Three Rivers High School, West Oso High School and Rockport-Fulton High School. Students had the opportunity to hear how Riess and Gross became interested in science and learned what it takes to become a Nobel Prize Winner.

Riess explained that through curiosity and time spent with his father looking at the stars and counting the seconds between strikes of thunder, he developed a passion for learning about the world around him. Echoing Riess, Gross went on to explain how he was also full of questions about the universe. This curiosity led him down the path of discovery.

Local students from Mary Carroll High School, W. B. Ray High School and Calallen Middle School were also in attendance. The forum was followed by a Q&A session as well as a student meet and greet.

“Having our students attend an event like this helps to show them what they could achieve if they pursue a career and education in the STEM field,” said Richard Flather, advanced placement physics teacher at Rockport-Fulton High School. “Today they got the rare opportunity to meet Nobel Prize winning scientists, that is something that not many students can say they have experienced.”

During the evening public forum, Riess gave a special lecture titled, “Supernovae Reveal An Accelerating Universe” to a crowd of nearly 450 Coastal Bend Community members. During the talk, Riess described how his team discovered the acceleration of the universe and why understanding the nature of dark energy presents one of the greatest remaining challenges in astrophysics and cosmology. Riess went on to explain why physics continues to matter in today’s technology-driven generation.

“We’ve always found that the more we learn about the deep principles of science, the more we know about our world,” said Riess, 2011 Nobel Prize Winner in Physics. “The GPS in your smartphone can tell you exactly where you are on the planet. This technology is the result of findings and research in the field of physics that came decades before your smartphone. This deep fundamental understanding of physics gives us the tools we need to continue to evolve in technology.”         

Both Riess and Gross have made landmark contributions in the field of physics during their career. Gross, along with other collaborators, originated the “Heterotic String Theory,” a unified theory that helps to explain the connection between all the forces of nature. While Riess provided the first direct and published evidence that the expansion of the universe is accelerating and filled with dark energy.

“I knew I wanted to be a physicist at a very young age, and although that might seem strange to some, I look around today, and I want to encourage young people to learn about the sciences,” said Gross. “If you give kids the opportunity to find out how nature works, and to learn why the stars shine, they’ll do great things.”

The public forums were part of the 11th International Conference on Interconnection Between Particle Physics and Cosmology (PPC) which focused on the importance of dark energy as it relates to the universe around us. The conference attracted more than 100 scientists from all over the world, some of whom visited Corpus Christi from as far away as France, Germany, Italy, Chile, South Korea, China, Taiwan, Brazil, Japan and England. PPC started Monday, May 22, and will run through Friday, May 26. Conference topics will include neutrino physics, gravitational waves, direct and indirect dark matter detection and dark energy amongst many others.

Since its inception in 2007, at Texas A&M University, PPC has traveled to places such as Torino, Italy, CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, Seoul, South Korea, Leon, Mexico and Sao Paulo, Brazil. This year’s conference was organized by Dr. Barbara Szczerbinksa, Professor in the Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences and PPC Steering Committee Chair.

“Inviting Nobel Prize Winners like Adam and David to Corpus Christi, exposes the Coastal Bend community to scientists of the highest caliber imaginable,” said Szczerbinksa. “They’re true icons in the fields of particle physics and cosmology who achieved the highest recognition for their research – a Nobel Prize.We were fortunate to be able to meet them, to listen to them and gain insight from their findings.” 

The free forums were sponsored by the Corpus Christi Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, the Corpus Christi Regional Economic Development Corporation, the College of Science and Engineering at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, the Office of Institutional Advancement at A&M-Corpus Christi, Marker 37 Marina and Pier and the 11th annual PPC.