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Illustration of Mark J. Sowers and a lecturer

Mark Sowers

A love of learning is bringing award-winning scientists to campus

The scientist who led the decades-long search for gravitational waves in space. A scientist at the cutting edge of nanotechnology to use solar energy to clean water and create energy. A scientist who won a Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of neutrino oscillations, which show neutrinos have mass. 

These scientists—David Reitze of the LIGO Project at Cal Tech, Naomi Halas of Rice University, and Art McDonald, Nobel Laureate and a professor emeritus at Queens University—have come to Virginia Tech as part of the J. Mark Sowers Distinguished Lecture Series. Two more are planned for fall 2017, touching on neuroscience. 

The series, launched in February, is sponsored by a longtime friend of the Virginia Tech College of Science, J. Marks Sowers, a Richmond, Virginia-based businessman and developer. The lecture series is designed to serve as a forum to exchange new and innovative ideas in scientific fields, including physics, nanotechnology, and neuroscience. It has been wildly successful: for the Reitze talk, overflow rooms were used at Goodwin Hall. At each talk, students have comprised the bulk of the audience, forming queues to ask questions during and after the talks. 

"I feel that we may be at the beginning of a new era of physics, a time where great things could happen. I want to help encourage that, to help promote and bring awareness to those working on the cutting edge."


"Bringing these well-known scientists to the New River Valley community is an excellent way to bring together our neighbors in a joint pursuit of scientific knowledge and understanding," said Sally C. Morton, dean of the College of Science, when the talks were launched. 

"I have very much enjoyed the two talks so far," Sowers said. "I see the enthusiasm of the students. After each question-and-answer period, they all came up to ask even more questions. I hope that people will be inspired by the lecture series and to bring attention to Virginia Tech and its brilliant researchers for the advancement of fundamental physics," Sowers said.