Physics professors win big at Berkley

By Courtney Klemm

Brian DeMarco, assistant physics professor, and Paul Kwiat, physics professor, made an impression on colleagues at the University of California at Berkley the weekend of Oct. 6. Both placed in a global competition called, “Amazing Light: Visions for Discovery.”

DeMarco took first place in the Quantum Physics category, winning $20,000. Meanwhile, Kwiat took third in the Innovative Technology category, winning $5,000. The money was split among his group of research assistants.

“I’m extremely happy that I did place, given the level of competition,” Kwiat said. “I feel like I did a good job representing everything we were doing here (at the University).”

The symposium presented different researchers’ work from around the world. The professors were treated to a series of talks by other renowned physicists as well as a banquet the final evening, during which the winners were announced. There were also 20 Nobel Prize-winning physicists present at the event, including University physics professor Tony Legget, who received a prize in 2003.

“It was both inspiring and surreal,” DeMarco said of the weekend events. “The banquet was held in a beautiful building in downtown Oakland and everyone made a grand entrance down a big staircase. There were a lot of pretty high-profile people.”

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The entire weekend was a celebration of Charles Townes’ 90th birthday. Townes won the 1964 Nobel Prize in physics for his invention of the laser. He spoke at the banquet and attendees watched a movie about his life, DeMarco said.

“He spoke about how lucky we are to get to do research in physics and how fun it is to satisfy our own curiosity,” DeMarco said.

The symposium was highly competitive, yet relaxed and enjoyable, Kwiat said.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime gathering,” Kwiat added. “I’m glad we were able to represent our school so well. The overall event was really quite marvelous.”

The third category was Cosmology and Astrophysics.