Colloquium helps researchers expand horizons

Alyssa Miller

Unlike Mondays for many other people around campus, the start the week is a highlight for those who frequent Physics Hall. At 3:45 p.m. Mondays, professors, graduate students and undergraduates alike gather at their weekly colloquium for free coffee and cookies and to learn something new and exciting.

The department of physics and astronomy normally has colloquiums in Physics Hall, Room 5. 

Preceding these talks is a social time with coffee and cookies for the audience beginning at 3:30 p.m. in The Ground State coffee break room on the first floor of the Zaffarano physics addition.

This week’s colloquium, “Star Cluster Formation and Early Evolution: The Big Picture,” was given by Richard de Grijs, associate director of the Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics of Peking University.

“It’s blue skies research, so it’s basic science,” Grijs said. “I try to understand, in essence, how galaxies get their distribution of stars and get to look the way they look.”

Grijs spent about an hour discussing galaxy formation to an audience of researchers and scientists at Iowa State. 

Allowing speakers from around the country and world allows the ISU community to expand their horizons and be aware of the science that is going on outside their respective laboratories.

Massimo Marengo, assistant professor of physics and astronomy, introduced the speaker and is part of the

committee that decides who to invite for these colloquium talks.

“Colloquium needs to be something that is understandable by everybody in the audience, but everybody in the audience tends to be scientists or somebody who studies science, so it’s not exactly the layman,” Marengo said. “There is a difference between a colloquium and a talk for the general public.”

Topics discussed at recent colloquiums range from the search for new particles at the European Organization for Nuclear Research to long-baseline neutrino experiments and ferromagnetic semiconductors to the physics of global warming.

“Today was an astronomer; we have a lot of condensed matter physicists because we have a large condensed matter group; we have high-energy physicists and so on,” Marengo said, before adding, “We try to be diverse.”

This program is beneficial to the selected speakers as well as the audience. Grijs said  that speaking at as many events as possible is beneficial for a scientist because  it gives them the ability to network with researchers with similar interests.

“I put [this colloquium] on my CV as another talk I gave. It is good to interact with colleagues because I might see these people again at conferences, and they might remember me,” Grijs said. “You have a link to at least get started to potentially collaborate on projects.”