Jill Hummels
Office of the Provost

‘Adventures in the Subatomic Universe’ to be focus of Distinguished Professor Lecture

Tue, 02/18/2020

LAWRENCE — A University of Kansas professor will relate some of the highlights and the challenges of pursuing the smallest bits of the universe.

University Distinguished Professor of Physics Alice BeanAlice Bean, University Distinguished Professor of Physics, will deliver her inaugural distinguished professor lecture, “Adventures in the Subatomic Universe,” at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25, in Alderson Auditorium of the Kansas Union. All are welcome to attend this free event. A reception will follow.

Bean is an internationally regarded researcher in experimental particle physics.

During the lecture, Bean will discuss her continuing experiences of becoming an experimental particle physicist. She plans to talk about particle physics but also on how to keep kids interested in science. In her pursuit of a fun and exciting career, she has learned that physicists embrace the adventure even if they don’t know what they are doing. However, to keep it real and gain new knowledge, there is much hard work to do that is facilitated by learning how to communicate and collaborate, Bean said. While continuing to figure out how to get the data needed to hunt for rare things, she is building new detectors to track particles, simultaneously understanding how to throw away or sift through unneeded information.

Bean joined the KU Department of Physics & Astronomy in 1993 and has had a very productive research program in experimental particle physics for over three decades. She is currently a member and has leadership roles in the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment at the Large Hadron Collider, CERN, in Geneva and is a co-discoverer of the Higgs Boson. Bean has studied a diverse range of physics analysis topics involving particles decaying to heavy quarks as well as the heavy quark decays themselves. She is an expert in detector technology and was a principal developer of tracking detectors made with silicon for the CMS experiment, the D0 experiment at Fermi National Accelerator Lab near Chicago and the CLEO particle detector experiment in New York.

She has helped to secure over $20 million in research funding to KU as principal investigator or co-PI of several grants including those from the National Science Foundation Partnerships in International Research and Education and Major Research Instrumentation and Department of Energy EPSCoR programs.

She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Physical Society (APS). She served on the High Energy Physics Advisory Panel, a position appointed jointly by the U.S. Secretary of Energy and NSF director. In 2010 she was elected to the executive committee of the Particle and Field division of the APS, and in 2016 she was elected to the executive board of the Forum on Outreach and Engaging the Public for the APS. She has also been a member of several other advisory panels including the Fermilab Laboratory Universities Research Advisory Panel.

Bean has ample background in communicating science and technology to the general public. At KU, she created the Quarked! Adventures in the Subatomic Universe project, which promotes science enrichment activities to elementary-age children and continues to engage over 100,000 people a year through its popular website, Quarked! Adventures in the Subatomic Universe. She also has provided hands-on moderated programs to several thousand schoolchildren in Kansas. She won the Steeples Award for Service to Kansans for this work. Bean was also on the 2010-2011 KU Women of Distinction calendar and was inducted into the KU Women’s Hall of Fame in 2019. She continued to promote science literacy through her Huffington Post Blog. To date, she has mentored over 80 undergraduate researchers and has won the School of Engineering’s Gould Award for Undergraduate Education. She also won the prestigious National Academy of Sciences Jefferson Science Fellowship and then spent a year as a science adviser for the U.S. Department of State. There, she created new avenues for influencing policies on climate change. She is currently teaching a science and policy course at KU as a result of this effort.

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