Nobel Prize Winner from NASA at Physics Colloquium

via FIU Flickr

Alex Castro | Contributing Writer

Decades worth of research and discoveries lead us toward a new era of space exploration technology. Aided by the leadership of one particular astrophysicist, NASA was able to create a new way in which we view space.

John Mather is an astrophysicist with an avid background in engineering and physics. His presence at the FIU physics department did not go unnoticed by the flock of physics and engineering students present to watch him speak. 

Mather made his appearance during the early afternoon on Oct. 18. Among other topics, he dissected the events leading up to his involvement in the creation of the Webb telescope. 

Mather describes the Webb telescope project as being a group effort to discover groundbreaking findings regarding human origin. 

At the time, the assembly of the telescope involved the direct efforts of 20,000 NASA employees. During his speech, Mather appeals to the crowd of students by encouraging them with work experiences.

Mather recalled how he began his physics career as a radio astronomer in New York. He also touched upon the importance of overcoming adversity when he referenced the submission of a failed thesis project to NASA and was able to convince the directors of his brilliance. 

With the help of his employees at NASA, Mather developed a map of the universe at 400,000 years old which caught the attention of Steven Hawking. 

According to Mather, his discoveries and technological developments prompted the King of Sweden to approach him regarding his talents. Students in the audience were encouraged by Mather to search for their own Nobel prize-winning discovery. 

Student Sabrina Chaviano attributes her interest in Mather as being strictly inspirational. “Mather’s discovery meant that we could see over 100,000 different galaxies at the same time,” she said recalling how her attendance stems from the discovery surprise.

To students, this sort of groundbreaking talent motivates them to chase their dreams with an incessant persistence.

Because of Mather’s influence and philanthropy, students have been able to pursue their own scientific inquiries. 

Mather also shared his further influences on science beyond space exploration. Numerous adaptive optics researchers were aided by his discoveries while designing the telescope. Therefore we can contribute the technology seen at the eye doctors as being part of NASA research. In this way, the science being produced at their facilities does not appear to be so far removed from non-scientists.

The impact of NASA research extends far beyond the bounds of space. With Mather’s discovery and unwavering persistence, science was able to determine the origin of human existence and trace it back to the early years of planet Earth. In this way, students can be inspired to look forward using past discoveries to make new ones in the present. 

“Events like these inspire me to pursue the areas of my field that other people are usually too scared to explore,” said biology student Victoria Alvarez.

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