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    Power Player: James Lattimer

    James Lattimer, a professor of physics and astronomy, told the audience about black holes large and small as the guest speaker of Astronomy Open Night last week.

    Lattimer, who got his start as a physics major at Notre Dame University and later at the University of Texas for his doctorate in astronomy, came to Stony Brook to continue his studies. It was at Stony Brook that he began researching minerals that might have been introduced into the solar system because they were created in supernova explosions. He has also studied meteorites, trying to understand the detail of how they are formed.

    “My biggest contribution is the building up of the group in theoretical astrophysics and making it into a group that has an international reputation,” Lattimer said. “It didn’t really exist here before I came.”

    The astronomy professor worked with a former member of the physics department, Gerald Brown, and together they created the nuclear astrophysics group. Throughout the years they have been able to add several other faculty members and train many students. Today, there are three additional faculty members in nuclear astrophysics; one of these faculty members is Alan C. Calder, an assistant professor in physics and astronomy.

    “He is one of the world’s experts on the physics of neutron stars and very dense matter and its phases and composition. When you go to a conference, he is sort of a Jedi master of these things,” Calder said.

    Over the last 32 years, Lattimer has written several papers, and the results from his research are used widely throughout the scientific community. Lattimer is part of the American Physical Society, which is the largest organization for physicists.

    He is also a member of the American Astronomical Society, the International Astronomical Union and the American Geophysical Union. Recently, NASA issued a press release regarding Lattimer’s discovery of superfluidity in a nearby neutron star.

    Having been at the university for more than 30 years, Lattimer has seen many changes in campus life, even in the amount of students who stay on campus.

    “You would very rarely see students on weekends, and now the community on campus is a lot better than it was, because it used to be more like a commuter campus, with very few activities going on during the weekends,” Lattimer said.

    He even remembers a time when the university did not have a football team. Now, he has season tickets to the games.

    Lattimer said Stony Brook has been very supportive of the research that he has done and he is grateful to the university for allowing the nuclear astrophysics group to continue bringing in students to do research.

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