Mark Gurevitch Memorial Lecture Series

Mark Gurevitch

In 2006, the Department of Physics began the Mark Gurevitch Memorial Lecture series as a tribute to Dr. Mark Gurevitch, former chair of the Physics Department.

Mark Gurevitch was born in 1916 in Russia to parents Ralph and Celia Gurevitch. Dr. Gurevitch attended the University of California at Berkeley where he completed his doctorate and joined the physics department at Portland State University in 1958. He held the position of department chair for 24 years.

Dr. Gurevitch accomplished many things in his time at Portland State University; he saw the physics department grow from a two year college to a graduate program, he was instrumental in hiring the first professor of biophysics, and in growing the biophysics group within the Physics Department. Dr. Gurevitch retired twice from Portland State University, once in the early 80’s, in order to save three other faculty members from budget cuts, and again in 1991, when department chair duties were turned over to Dr. Erik Bodegom.

The Portland State University Foundation Gurevitch Lecture Fund supports the annual lecture series and allows the Department of Physics to bring internationally recognized speakers to the Portland State University campus.

Give to the Gurevitch Lecture Fund:


13th Annual Lecture, May 24, 2019

Dr. Hakeem M. Oluseyi
Astrophysicist and Space Science Education Lead, NASA
Distinguished Research Professor, Department of Aerospace, Physics & Space Sciences, Florida Institute of Technology

Hacking the Stars

In modern times, the word hack has come to mean repurposing something in new or creative ways in order to gain benefit or cleverly solve a tricky problem. Historically, the word “stars” was used to refer to one’s future fate through the association of stars with astrological prognostication. In this talk I’ll describe how I’ve utilized observations and theory of the Sun and stars to not only advance knowledge of the objects under study but also to develop new technologies and progress understanding of other systems. I’ll also describe how I hacked my own stars to rise above the circumstances of my youth to become a successful scientist and one of the world’s most recognizable public intellectuals. The research component of my talk will describe how my graduate students and I used the identification of scale-invariant ion acceleration processes in the solar corona to design an innovative experiment for initiating 3D magnetic reconnection in the laboratory, producing ~3,000 km/s ion beams suitable for in-space propulsion and more. I’ll also describe how we have used machine learned identification and classification of periodic variables in astronomical surveys of tens of millions of stars to develop new stellar diagnostics and time-domain informatics techniques, discover previously unknown Milky Way satellites and tidal streams, place constraints on Galactic evolution, and measure the Milky Way’s gravitational potential constraining its dark matter distribution.


12th Annual Lecture, May 11, 2018

Dr. David Wineland
2012 Nobel Prize for Physics
Department of Physics
University of Oregon

Optical Atomic Clocks

For many centuries, and continuing today, a primary application of accurate clocks is for precise navigation.  For example, GPS enables us to determine our distance from the (known) positions of satellites by measuring the time it takes for a pulse of radiation emitted by the satellite to reach us.  The more accurately we can measure this time, the more accurate our position is known. 

Atoms absorb electromagnetic radiation at precise discrete frequencies.  Knowing this, a recipe for making an atomic clock is simple to state: we first need an oscillator to produce the radiation and a device that tells us when the atoms absorb it.  To make a clock from this setup, we then simply count cycles of the oscillator; the duration of a certain number of cycles defines a unit of time, for example, the second.  Today, the most accurate clocks count cycles of radiation corresponding to optical wavelengths, around a million billion per second.  To achieve high accuracy, many interesting effects, including those due to Einstein’s relativity, must be accounted for.

Dr. Wineland received his bachelor’s degree in Physics from the University of California, Berkeley and both his MS and PhD in Physics from Harvard University. He worked at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) from 1975 until 2017. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Optical Society. During his time at NIST he founded their ion storage group, was elected to the National Academy of Sciences (1992), and was the recipient of many awards, including the Arthur L. Schawlow Prize in Laser Science (2001), the National Medal of Science (2007), and the Nobel Prize in Physics (2012). He has recently moved to Eugene to accept a position at the University of Oregon.


11th Annual Lecture, May 19, 2017

Dr. Janna Levin
Department of Physics and Astronomy
Barnard College of Columbia University

Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space

In her new book Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space, Levin offers the authoritative story of the headline-making discovery of gravitational waves—the soundtrack to astronomy’s silent movie. But why was this scientific campaign so significant? And what does it mean for the sciences—and humanity—in general?

Over a billion years ago, two black holes collided. In the final second of their life together, they banged out a rhythm like mallets on a drum, creating gravitational waves—waves in the shape of spacetime. Over the billion years since, we evolved and pointed telescopes at the sky, discovered a universe in which we are not central, squabbled and warred, and have nearly driven ourselves to extinction. One hundred years ago, Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves. Over the past five decades, a few experimentalists, disconnected from mainstream concerns, struggled to devise observatories to do the improbable, if not outright impossible: record Lilliputian waves in the shape of space. As the echo of those black holes approached just beyond our solar system, billion-dollar instruments known collectively as LIGO underwent an upgrade here on Earth. As the instruments came online—a sophisticated global microphone pointed at the sky—the first gravitational wave sound ever recorded came from the southern sky, struck the instrument in Louisiana, then Washington. And with these new observatories, so much has changed.

Dr. Levin has worked at the Center for Particle Astrophysics (CfPA) at UC Berkeley, the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP) at Cambridge University and the Ruskin School of Fine Art and Drawing at Oxford University, where she won an award from the National Endowment for Science, Technology, and Arts. Levin holds a BA in Physics and Astronomy from Barnard College with a concentration in Philosophy, and a PhD from MIT in Physics. She was named a Guggenheim Fellow in 2012.


10th Annual Lecture, June 1, 2016

Prof. Shuji Nakamura
2014 Nobel Prize for Physics
Materials Department of the College of Engineering
University of California, Santa Barbara

The invention of high efficiency blue LEDs and future lighting

In the 1970's and 80’s, high efficiency blue and green light-emitting diodes (LEDs) were the last missing elements required to make white LED solid-state display and lighting technologies. At that time, III-nitride alloys were regarded as the least probable candidates for this technology. However, a series of unexpected breakthroughs in the 1990's changed this, and in 1993 the first high efficiency blue LEDs were invented and commercialized. Nowadays, III-nitride-based LEDs have become a widely used light source for many applications.

LED light bulbs are more than ten times as efficient as incandescent bulbs, and they last for up to 50 years. At their current adoption rates, LEDs have the potential to reduce the world’s need for electricity by the equivalent of nearly 60 nuclear power plants by 2020.

Dr. Nakamura specializes in the field of semiconductor technology. He is professor at the Materials Department of the College of Engineering, University of California, Santa Barbara, and is the inventor of the blue LED, a major breakthrough in lighting technology for which he received the 2014 Nobel Prize for Physics.


9th Annual Lecture, May 14, 2015

Dr. Eric Betzig
2014 Nobel Prize for Chemistry
Janelia Farm Research Campus, HHMI

Imaging Life at High Spatiotemporal Resolution

As our understanding of biological systems as increased, so has the complexity of our questions and the need for more advanced optical tools to answer them.  For example, there is a hundred-fold gap between the resolution of conventional optical microscopy and the scale at which molecules self-assemble to form sub-cellular structures.  Furthermore, as we attempt to peer more closely at the three-dimensional dynamic complexity of living systems, the actinic glare of our microscopes can adversely influence the specimens we hope to study.  Finally, the heterogeneity of living tissue can seriously impede our ability to image at high resolution, due to the resulting warping and scattering of light rays.  I will describe three areas focused on addressing these challenges: super-resolution microscopy for imaging specific proteins within cells at various lengths scales down to near-molecular resolution; plane illumination microscopy using non-diffracting optical lattices for noninvasive imaging of three-dimensional dynamics within live cells and embryos; and adaptive optics to recover optimal images from within large, optically heterogeneous specimens such as zebrafish and cortex of living mice.


8th Annual Lecture, April 11, 2014

Dr. Andrea Ghez
Department of Physics and Astronomy
University of California, Los Angeles

The Monster at the Heart of the Milky Way

Learn about new developments in the study of black holes. Through the capture and analysis of two decades of high-resolution imaging, Dr. Ghez and her team have moved the case for a supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy from a possibility to a certainty. This has provided the best evidence to date that supermassive black holes exist. Her work also explores the role that black holes play in the formation and evolution of galaxies. Several unexpected surprises have been revealed including the presence of massive young stars orbiting in close proximity of a black hole and a possible gas cloud headed straight for the black hole. The origin of these stars and gas cloud are a challenge to explain, but may provide key insight into the growth of the central black hole.


7th Annual Lecture, May 21, 2013

Dr. Anton Zeiliger
Vienna Center for Quantum Science and Technology
Physics Department at University of Vienna

Quantum Experiments with Photons: From the Foundations towards a New Technology

In the talk I will start with a brief introductory review of some important fundamental concepts in the foundations of quantum physics like superposition, the measurement process, and entanglement. Then, focusing on photons,  I show how these have given rise to the field of quantum information. I will present recent experiments on long distance quantum teleportation, on other nonlocal phenomena, and on optical quantum computation.


6th Annual Lecture, June 1, 2012

Dr. Michael Berry
Physics Department, Bristol University

The Maggot in the Apple: Peaceful Coexistence of Incompatible Theories

In physics, as in science generally, most phenomena can be understood in more than one way: the gas in an engine obeys the laws of thermodynamics and also those of the motion of its molecules. The different theories correspond to different levels of description. These must overlap, but understanding their consilience is far from straightforward because they are usually based on seemingly incompatible concepts. The discordance arises from the fact, unappreciated until recently, that the limit in which the more general theory reduces to the less general (usually older) theory is mathematically singular. One consequence is a range of phenomena, of intense current interest, inhabiting the borderlands between the theories. I will explore this theme with examples from the physics of fluids, light and the quantum world.


5th Annual Lecture, March 18, 2010

Dr. George E. Smith
Fellow of IEEE, APS, and member of the National Academy of Engineering

The Invention and Early History of the Charge-Coupled Device (CCD)

IEEE Electron Devices Society Distinguished Service Award, Stuart Ballentine Medal of the Franklin Institute (1973); Morris N. Liebmann Memorial Award of IEEE (1974); Progress Medal of the Photographic Society of America (1986); IEEE Device Research Conference Breakthrough Award (1999); Edwin H. Land Medal by the Society for Imaging Science and Technology (2001); and the C&C Prize (Computer and Communications) of the NEC Foundation, Tokyo (1999), Charles Stark Draper Prize (2006)
Winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics


4th Annual Lecture, May 8, 2009

Dr. Sidney Altman
Sterling Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
Professor of Chemistry, Biophysical Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry
Yale University
Winner of the 1989 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

From Physics to Molecular Biology

My travels from a nascent physicist to a student of molecular biology will be described in some detail. What I did in molecular biology and how my training in physics played a role will also be summarized.


3rd Annual Lecture, April 18, 2008

Dr. Douglas Osheroff
Department of Physics, Stanford University
Winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Physics

How Advances in Science are Made

How advances in science are made and how they may come to benefit mankind at large are complex issues.  The discoveries that most influence the way we think about nature seldom can be anticipated and the same often can be said for new inventions and technologies.  One thing is most clear: seldom are such advances made by individuals alone.  Rather, they result from the progress of the scientific community-asking questions, developing new technologies to answer those questions, and sharing their results and their ideas with others.  However, there are research strategies that can substantially increase the probability of one's making a discovery.  Dr. Osheroff will illustrate some of these strategies in the context of a number of well-known discoveries, including the work he did as a graduate student, for which he shared the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1996.


2nd Annual Lecture, May 11, 2007

Dr. Brian Schmidt
Research School of Astronomy & Astrophysics, Australian National University
Recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics, 2011

The Universe from Beginning to End

To explain our observations of the Cosmos, Astronomers believe the Universe began in a Big Bang, and is expanding around us. How Big and Old is the Universe? What is in the Universe, and how will it End? Brian Schmidt will describe the Universe which we live in, and how astronomers have used exploding stars, known as supernovae, to track the expansion of the Universe back some 10 Billion years and to answer some of these and other fundamental questions about our Universe.


1st Annual Lecture, April 7, 2006

Dr. Leo Kadanoff
Departments of Physics and Mathematics, University of Chicago
President-Elect of the American Physical Society

Making a Splash; Breaking a Neck: The Development of Complexity in Physical Systems

The fundamental laws of physics are very simple. They can be written on the top half of an ordinary piece of paper. The world about us is very complex. Whole libraries hardly serve to describe it. Indeed, any living organism exhibits a degree of complexity quite beyond the capacity of our libraries. This complexity has led some thinkers to suggest that living things are not the outcome of physical law but instead the creation of a (super)-intelligent designer.

In this talk, we examine the development of complexity in fluid flow. Examples include splashing water, necking of fluids, swirls in heated gases, and jets thrown up from beds of sand. We watch complexity develop in front of our eyes. Mostly, we are able to understand and explain what we are seeing. We do our work by following a succession of very specific situations. In following these specific problems, we soon get to broader issues: predictability and chaos, mechanisms for the generation of complexity and of simple laws, and finally the question of whether there is a natural tendency toward the formation of complex ''machines''