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Department of Physics and Astronomy

Public Lecture Series

The "Distinguished Lecture Series in Physics and Astronomy" began in Fall 2016 and is sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the Office of the Vice President for Research, and the College of Arts and Sciences. Each speaker in this series will give an open colloquium, presented at a level approachable by any interested undergraduate students.

In addition, each distinguished guest will give a public lecture on the USC campus. These public lectures are designed to engage the broader community of Columbia and South Carolina and will touch on exciting topics at the forefront of physics and astronomy. These talks are meant to be accessible to a broad public audience, including not only USC students, faculty, and staff, but also high school students, alumni, friends, and neighbors of the University.

All events are free of charge and everyone is invited!

If you would like to receive announcements and updates regarding our latest public lectures and special events, please e-mail Mr. Sam Beals ( for more details.

Next Public Lecture:

"Understanding the Universe from Deep Underground"
Speaker:  Dr. Arthur McDonald, Winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics
Thursday, October 24, 2019

W.W. Hootie Johnson Performance Hall
Darla Moore School of Business, Room #101 (1014 Greene Street)
7:00 pm


By going deep underground and creating ultra-clean detectors, it is possible to address some very fundamental questions about our universe:  How does the sun burn? What are the dark matter particles making up 26% of our universe? What are the properties of neutrinos, elusive particles that are one of the fundamental building blocks of nature? How do these particles influence how our universe evolves? With the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO), we went 2 km underground to observe new properties of neutrinos that are beyond the Standard Model of Elementary Particles and also confirm that the models of how the sun burns are very accurate. With the SNO+ experiment, we are studying further properties of neutrinos for neutrino-less double beta decay. Through the Global Argon Dark Matter Collaboration, involving the CANFRANC (Spain), Gran Sasso (Italy), and SNOLAB (Canada) underground laboratories along with more than 350 international scientists, we hope to push the sensitivity for detecting Dark Matter particles by more than a factor of 100 and perhaps observe a whole new type of matter. All of these topics will be included in a lecture to a general audience.

Background on Dr. McDonald:

Dr. Arthur B. McDonald is a Canadian astrophysicist and the winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics for discoveries he made as the Director of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) scientific collaboration. These discoveries showed clearly that neutrinos have mass, providing evidence for new laws of physics beyond the standard theory of elementary particles. Dr. McDonald currently serves as Professor Emeritus in the Department of Physics at Queen's University (Kingston, Ontario, Canada). From 2006-2013, Dr. McDonald held the Gordon and Patricia Gray Chair in Particle Astrophysics also at Queen's University.  In 2016, he was named as a foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences.

Previous Events in the Public Lecture Series:

Dr. Megan Donahue, President of the American Astronomical Society, Michigan State University
"Galaxies and Supermassive Black Holes:  Galaxies at the Edge of Time"
Thursday, April 25, 2019

Dr. Arthur Hebard
, Distinguished Professor of Physics, University of Florida
"Ah Ha Moments with Physics:  From Free Quarks to Buckyballs to Topological Phase Transitions"
Friday, November 2, 2018

Dr. William Moerner, 2014 Winner of Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Stanford University
"What Can We Learn by Watching Single Molecules? The Promise and Challenges of Super Resolution Microscopy"
Friday, March 23, 2018

Dr. Barry Barish
, 2017 Winner of Nobel Prize in Physics, California Institute of Technology
"Einstein, Black Holes, and Gravitational Waves"
Thursday, February 8, 2018

Dr. Laura Greene, President of the American Physical Society, Florida State University
"The Dark Energy of Condensed Matter Physics:  High-Temperature Superconductivity"
Thursday, November 16, 2017

Dr. Craig Roberts, Distinguished Professor and Senior Physicist, Argonne National Laboratory
"Laying the God Particle to Rest"
Monday, August 21, 2017 (in conjunction with the NSTAR 2017 Conference and Total Eclipse Weekend)

Dr. Sarbani Basu, Chair of the Department of Astronomy, Yale University
"Solar Eclipses:  the Dread and the Fascination"
Friday, August 18, 2017 (in conjunction with Total Eclipse Weekend)

Dr. Adam Riess, 2011 Winner of Nobel Prize in Physics, Johns Hopkins University
"Supernovae and the Discovery of the Accelerating Universe"
Thursday, January 17, 2017

Dr. Mario Livio, Astrophysicist and Best-Selling Author
"Brilliant Blunders"
Thursday, September 8, 2016

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