Brookdale students had a “big bang” of an afternoon on Nov. 4, when they travelled to AT&T Laboratories in Middletown for a rare, invite-only presentation by world renowned physicist Dr. Robert Wilson.
Wilson, winner of the 1978 Nobel Prize in physics, discussed his work on the groundbreaking discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation in 1964, which would be used as a key piece of evidence to support the Big Bang theory.
The research, conducted with fellow physicist Arno Penzias at the former Bell Labs complex in Holmdel, involved the use of a 20-foot-tall “horn antenna” to detect and study unidentified noise emanating from the reaches of space.
Wilson and Penzias both earned international acclaim for their work, and the Bell Labs site would go on to become one of the most prominent research and development facilities in the world in the mid-20th century. The horn antenna still stands on Bell Labs’ Crawford Hill research site in Holmdel.
“The students were able to see first hand the huge technical legacy that is part of Monmouth County due to the existence of Bell Labs,” said Brookdale adjunct instructor and AT&T researcher Pamela Bogdan, who helped coordinate the visit. “They were also able to see first-hand the innovation that is still going on at AT&T… and take a mini-tour of the AT&T research and development facility.”
Bogdan and adjunct physics instructor Mark Russo said they hope the visit will be the first of many collaborations between the college, Brookdale students and AT&T Laboratories.
“The opportunities that are available are tremendous,” said Russo, who works with Bogdan at AT&T. “AT&T is always seeking enthusiastic STEM-oriented summer interns to eventually make their way into our work force. Brookdale is facilitating the entry point for so many of these students as they begin their academic journey, en route to the colleges and universities at which they’ll complete their educations. We’re all in the same community, and our goals align beautifully.”
For physics and astronomy club president Nicole Louca, the lecture was a rare opportunity to interact with an award-winning physicist and gain some perspective on what it takes to truly have an impact on the world.
“It was so unbelievably cool to actually see a person who is mentioned in so many of our physics books,” Louca said. “Aside from all the things I learned from this experience, it was actually inspirational, too. Robert Wilson was me at one point – just a college student who was interested and passionate in his studies. Look at him now: a Nobel laureate in physics, who discovered cosmic microwave background radiation.
“He also mentioned how, at the time, he didn’t really know what he was doing but it turned out to be an amazing discovery,” she added. “That also inspired and motivated me, because I sometimes feel like I don’t really know what I’m doing. But hey, who knows, I might have the same luck he did. He is truly admirable beyond words and I couldn’t be more thankful that I had the opportunity to attend this lecture.”
[Feature photo caption (l-r) – Back row: Michael Giacona, Artem Azimov, Robbie Bridgeman. Middle row: Aileen Ryan, Michael Imbro, Tom Maggi, Saud Alsiary, Joseph Guth, Dylan Noble, Stanley Bronicki, Dr. Robert Wilson, Michelle Paci, Dr. Nancy Liu, Roland Riim, Alan Molina, John Jakowski, Hunter Grimes. Front row: Christine Leary, Jenna Wendt, Nicole Louca, Professor Mark Russo, Stephanie Povlas]