Fert kicks off Wigner Lectures to full house


Nobel Laureate Albert Fert gave the inaugural Eugene Wigner Distinguished Lecture Monday to a packed house at the Spallation Neutron Source’s Iran Thomas Auditorium. The lecture, hosted by ORNL's Corporate Fellows, was titled "Novel Directions for Spintronics: Spin-orbitronics and Magnetic Skyrmions." Fert shared the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of giant magnetoresistance, a phenomenon that launched the field of spintronics and revolutionized the electronics industry.

In addition to his keynote to about 350 lab staff, Fert attended a poster session featuring postdoctoral students and Lab-Directed Research and Development projects on Monday afternoon on ORNL’s Main Street. Very much in the style of Eugene Wigner—ORNL's first science director and also a Nobel winner—Fert toured the posters and engaged presenters about their work, as he did throughout his visit, which included several small-group meetings with researchers.

“I am constantly amazed by how much fun science can be when you get the right people in the room,” said ORNL researcher and Corporate Fellow Stan Wullschleger. “Professor Fert reinforced this message by saying that he enjoyed this morning’s discussion, noting that people appeared to be enjoying the work they were doing across the field of biology."

Four Nobel Laureates are among nine lecturers who will be participating in the new ORNL lecture series, formally known as the Eugene P. Wigner Distinguished Lecture Series in Science, Technology, and Policy.

Other lecturers who have confirmed their participation come from a variety of disciplines:

  • Frances Arnold, protein engineering and biocatalysis, California Institute of Technology
  • Craig Barrett, education reform; former chairman of the board, Intel Corporation
  • Steven Chu, atomic physics, Stanford University; former secretary of energy (1997 Nobel Laureate in Physics)
  • Siegfried Hecker, plutonium science and nuclear weapons policy, Stanford University
  • Arun Majumdar, energy innovation,; former director of the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy
  • Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, biochemistry and structural chemistry, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (2009 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry)
  • C.N.R. Rao, solid state and materials chemistry, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research
  • Ada Yonath, biochemistry and structural chemistry, Weizmann Institute (2009 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry)

Majumdar will continue the series on Jan. 27, 2014, followed by Chu on Feb. 12 and Barrett on April 7. The lectures are streamed on the ORNL website, Questions for the lecturer may be submitted via ORNL social media.

Eugene Wigner, who received the 1963 Nobel Prize in Physics, was both a towering figure in theoretical physics and a key contributor to the development of nuclear reactors. As ORNL’s first research director, he established an enduring vision for the laboratory and laid the foundations for programs that continue to this day. His remarkable ability to couple basic science and applied research remains a touchstone for ORNL’s mission to deliver scientific discoveries and technical breakthroughs for clean energy and global security.

Monday's lecture fittingly coincided with the 70th anniversary of the first nuclear chain reaction achieved, on Nov. 4, 1943, by ORNL's Graphite Reactor, designed by Wigner and a host of Manhattan Project pioneers including Enrico Fermi and Arthur Compton.  






 -  Ron Walli,  865.576.0226,  November 05, 2013

We're always happy to get feedback from our users. Please use the Comments form to send us your comments, questions, and observations.