Goddard Astrophysicist to Speak at Commencement

Dr. John C. Mather - a Nobel Prize winner and adjunct professor of physics - will be the featured commencement speaker at the University of Maryland December 20. The ceremony - to be held at the Comcast Center on campus - begins at 7 p.m.

University of Maryland President Dr. C.D. Mote, Jr. says "Dr. John Mather is a superb scientist. We are most fortunate to have him speak to our graduates at commencement. His work confirming the Big-Bang theory of the origin of the universe is out of this world."

Mather is based at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, where he is a senior astrophysicist in the Observational Cosmology Laboratory. He is currently the senior project scientist for the James Web Space Telescope.

"I am honored to be invited to talk to some of the best and brightest young people, people in whom we are placing our trust to build the future, and their friends and families. And I am delighted to have a brief moment to show the excitement of the latest discoveries in astronomy and cosmology, discoveries that have changed our understanding of our place in history," says the NASA astrophysicist.

In 2006, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded Dr. Mather and George F. Smoot of the University of California the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work using the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite to measure the heat radiation from the Big Bang. Dr. Mather and his team were able to use information from the COBE satellite to confirm the Big Bang theory to extraordinary accuracy.

Mather says, "My personal code is, life is too long not to do what you want. It's too short not to do what you want. So, find out what you want and give it your heart, and who knows what wonders may be in store?"

The NASA researcher is also keenly interested in finding ways to get more U.S. students involved in science to help America remain competative with the rest of the world. "There are thousands of potential young scientists in our country who never learn that science can be exciting, and there are thousands more who know it's exciting but need nurturing and exposure to opportunity. We need to support science and education in general as though our lives depend on it - because they do. And those who show special interest need special attention; bright kids need help too!"

Mather is the second physicist to win a Nobel Prize while an adjunct professor at Maryland. In 1997, then adjunct William Phillips won the physics prize for work using lasers to cool and trap atoms that he conducted at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Phillips, now a Distinguished University of Maryland Professor of Physics and a NIST fellow, leads the university's atomic, molecular and optical physics research group.

Published December 8, 2008