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J. Mark Sowers Distinguished Lecture Series

J. Mark Sowers Distinguished Lecture Series

Physics student helps build satellite
A male Passerini’s tanager, Ramphocelus passerinii, eats the fruit of Piper sancti-felicis. Photo by Bernadette Wynter Rigley.

 The College of Science

premiere lecture series

Upcoming Lecture

Nigel Lockyer

Professor of Physics
Cornell University


Particles and Accelerators are Tools: What are they good for?


Tuesday, September 19, 2023
7:30 PM EDT
Assembly Hall at Holtzman Alumni Center
901 Prices Fork Road, Blacksburg, VA 24061

white, older man with graying short hair smiling wearing a collared shirt

Particles and Accelerators are Tools: What are they good for?

Humans have been using tools since the stone age. Today, the tools are everywhere and becoming more and more sophisticated. I will start by discussing a brief history of elementary particles and accelerators and how we use them for all sorts of things that range from manufacturing, to sophisticated medical procedures, to advancing science. I will close with some thoughts on the future of where this field is going.

Nigel Lockyer is an experimental particle physicist. Lockyer was most recently director of TRIUMF, Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics from 2007-2013 and then director of the Department of Energy’s Fermilab from 2013 to 2022.  He was a professor of physics at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of British Columbia and is presently a professor of Physics at Cornell University.

His research focused on high-energy particle experiments at the energy frontier, with an interest in testing fundamental symmetries and studying the heaviest quarks. He also pursued his interests in accelerator science and technology.  While at Pennsylvania, Lockyer developed his interest in the applications of physics to real-world problems; he worked with the Penn Medical School on proton therapy for cancer using accelerators and detectors for medical physics.  

Born in Scotland and raised in Canada, Lockyer received his graduate education in the United States.  He earned his B.S. in physics from York University in Toronto and his Ph.D. in physics from The Ohio State University.

He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and a recipient of the society’s 2006 Panofsky Prize for his leading research on the bottom quark. He has honorary degrees from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver and North Illinois University. He was bestowed the decoration of “Cavaliere” (Knight) of the Order of the Star of Italy by the President of the Italian republic, Sergio Mattarella, December 2020. More recently, he received the DOE Distinguished Service Award in 2021 and was made an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) by her Majesty the Queen January 1, 2022. 

Past Lectures


Divisions in Social Networks and Implications for Inequality and Immobility

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The World's Smallest Machines

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From SyFy and Marvel Comics to Superstring Theory, Evolution, and the CMB


Discovery of Pulsars: A Graduate Student’s Story


Generating High-Intensity, Ultrashort Optical Pulses


The Importance of Global Scientific Engagement

About the series

The J. Mark Sowers Distinguished Lecture Series in the College of Science at Virginia Tech is a forum for the exchange of new and innovative ideas in scientific fields. The series has attracted national and world-renowned scholars, including a laser physicist, a nanoscientist, an astrophysicist (and also Nobel Laureate), an applied mathematician, the director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, and a statistician who specializes in machine-learning. Discussions have delved into brain sciences, speech and hearing development, black holes, and more.

Generously supported by Mark and Debi Sowers, this series provides opportunities for the university community and general public to interact with and learn from eminent scholars and industry experts. Sowers is a Richmond, Virginia-based businessman and developer and longtime supporter of the College of Science. He sponsors the series to share with others his fascination with the sciences, in particular, physical science.

All talks are free and open to the public.

For more information:

Contact Jenny Orzolek, Senior Director of Major Gifts for Advancement | 540-231-5643