What did you learn this summer?

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By The Staff

Rajan Gupta said he used to talk about the connection between energy needs and climate issues with the idea that it was something that must be addressed by the next generation.

After his talk Wednesday, the second in the summer lecture series primarily for visiting students at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Gupta said he no longer thinks the problem can wait.

He urged the students not only to engage what he calls the “global grand challenges” now, but to go back to their labs and offices and clamor for those people to get busy working on the problem, too.

A theoretical physicist, whose day-job at the laboratory takes him deeply into fundamental theories of elementary particle interactions, Gupta is also one of the scientists most deeply committed to global challenges of poverty and development.

“Pure enthusiasm,” Tomasz Durkiewiez, one of the organizers of the series, described Gupta in a couple of words, explaining one reason he was asked to participate in the lectures.

“He is picking up on climate issues, because of his own needs and interests, to develop something important for the lab,” said Durkiewiez. “He has fresh, original and interesting ideas.”

Every year, a boatload of summer students disembark into Los Alamos National Laboratory. A couple of hundred will stay on during the year.

Their initial contact with the big picture of work at the laboratory used to be a fairly small window.

“There was a void in terms of the possibility of these students getting in touch with what the lab is doing,” said Durkiewiez, a condensed-matter physicist and experimentalist.  “They were in touch with one mentor without knowing what’s going on at the lab.”

Starting last year, Durkiewiez began doing something about it, creating the summer lecture series, already a hot ticket again this year.

The program started last week with two lectures in the Materials Science Laboratory auditorium. These talks are for badgeholders only, but really aimed at those several hundred seasonal summer students who may or may not be back again.

Without this program, many students might spend the summer at the lab without visiting the Los Alamos Neutron Scattering Center (LANSCE), the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (NHMFL) and the Center for Integrated Nanotechnology (CINT), three of the laboratory’s most advanced research centers

Durkiewiez works with Nan Sauer of the labs Institutes for Advanced Study to organize a series of 18 lectures and three facility field trips over the course of the summer. The series is sponsored by the Materials Physics Applications Division and the Students Association.

“We start in the early spring, when we start selecting speakers and coordinating the events,” Durkiewiez said.

There are two guiding principals. “The perspective has to be broad, covering all the disciplines from black holes to nuclear proliferation,” he said. “And we want a good speaker, able to explain difficult things in lay terms, someone who communicates enthusiasm about the work and the science, someone who gets across that this is a place worth coming back to and a place where you personally can find something to do.”

The series kicked off last week with a talk by Jim Smith of Materials Technology on “Superconductivity, Magnetism, and Other Stories.” Gupta’s talk on “Energy in the 21st Century,” was Wednesday and on Friday, the students visited LANSCE and heard a presentation by Jim Rhyne on “What’s Cool About Neutron Scattering.”

A high-point next week will be John Sarrao’s talk Monday about MaRIE, the laboratory’s signature facility of the future.

Coming up soon, Greg Swift, one of the lab’s E.O. Lawrence Award winners will talk about new developments in thermo-acoustics.

On July 18, former laboratory director Sig Hecker will discuss one of his favorite subjects, plutonium. Durkiewiez described the topic with anticipation, “whether it is leading us to war and disaster or peace and prosperity.”

For more information including a detailed schedule, visit www.lanl.gov/org/mpa/mpa10/lectures.