Friedman Lecture - Timekeepers of the Universe

Freeman Auditorium, 117 HUB-Robeson Center

Maura McLaughlin, Eberly Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy at West Virginia University, will present “Timekeepers of the Universe,” at 7 p.m. on Feb. 27 in the Freeman Auditorium, 117 HUB-Robeson Center, on the Penn State University Park campus. The event is part of the 2019-20 Friedman Lecture Series in Astronomy, which is free and open to the public.

McLaughlin studies stars called pulsars — compact, rapidly rotating stars born in supernova explosions — using the world's largest radio telescopes. These stars act like cosmic lighthouses, emitting a pulse of radio waves with each rotation. Their extremely regular rotation means that pulsars can be used to keep time with incredible precision, on par with atomic clocks on Earth. In her presentation, McLaughlin will describe the properties of pulsars and discuss some of their applications, including searching for gravitational waves, testing general relativity, weighing stars, and even space navigation.

McLaughlin is the director of the Center for Gravitational Waves and Cosmology at West Virginia University and co-director of the NANOGrav Physics Frontiers Center, which aims to detect gravitational waves using high-precision timing observations of pulsars. She is also the co-founder of the Pulsar Search Collaboratory program, which has involved more than 2000 high-school students in pulsar searches over the past decade.

McLaughlin has been honored with the Research Corporation’s Cottrell Scholar Award, an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, and, most recently, with the Penn State Schreyer Honors College 2019 Outstanding Alumni Mentor Award. She earned a bachelor’s degree in astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State and a doctoral degree at Cornell University, and was a National Science Foundation Distinguished Research Fellow at the Jodrell Bank Observatory.

This presentation is hosted by the Penn State Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics and is funded by the Ronald M. and Susan J. Friedman Outreach Fund in Astronomy. Mr. Friedman is a member of the department's Board of Visitors.