Distinguished lecture series in Physics

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NOTICE:  The Physics Department Offices are Closed Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Physics Department offices in Cowley Hall are now closed until further notice, with both Cowley Hall and the Prairie Springs Science Center locked to everyone but those deemed to be essential personnel.  University personnel and UWL students should check their university email account for updates on this evolving situation.  All Physics classes will be held online beginning on Monday, March 30, 2020.  We recommend using email or Canvas to contact instructors.  All Physics Department personnel will work remotely during this shutdown.  The incoming Physics Department voicemail messages (608.785.8429) will be checked daily.  If you leave a message, you should expect a response within 24 hours during the Monday through Friday work week (messages left on Friday may not be responded to until the following Monday).  The Physics Department wishes everyone to remain safe and well during this very difficult time.


The Spring 2020 Distinguished Lecture Series in Physics is being rescheduled due to the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19.  The new dates for Dr. Mourou's lectures will be announced once they are finalized.

The UW-La Crosse Distinguished Lecture Series in Physics (DLS) is co-sponsored by the UW-La Crosse Foundation, the Department of Physics, the College of Science and Health, and Wettstein's.  The purpose of the series is to bring to La Crosse each year a world-renowned physicist whose significant accomplishments can inspire and enrich the lives and careers of students, faculty, and the community in general.  In 2020, for the first time, UW-La Crosse will host two Nobel Laureates in Physics (Gérard Mourou in April and Didier Queloz in October).  They will be the 20th and 21st Nobel Laureates in Physics to visit UW-La Crosse.

Spring 2020 Distinguished Lecture Series in Physics
Date:  TBD
Speaker:  Gérard Mourou, Ph.D.

Gérard Mourou is Professor Haut-Collège at the École polytechnique in Palaiseau, France.  He is also the A.D. Moore Distinguished University Emeritus Professor of the University of Michigan.  He received his undergraduate education at the University of Grenoble (1967) and his Ph.D. from University Paris VI in 1973.  He has made numerous contributions to the field of ultrafast lasers, high-speed electronics, and medicine.  But his most important invention, demonstrated with his student Donna Strickland while at the University of Rochester (New York), is the laser amplification technique known as Chirped Pulse Amplification (CPA), universally used today.  

CPA revolutionized the field of optics, opening new branches like attosecond pulse generation, Nonlinear QED, and compact particle accelerators.  It extended the field of optics to nuclear and particle physics.  In 2005, Prof. Mourou proposed a new infrastructure, the Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI), which is distributed over three pillars located in the Czech Republic, Romania, and Hungary.  Prof. Mourou also pioneered the field of femtosecond ophthalmology that relies on a CPA femtosecond laser for precise myopia corrections and corneal transplants.  Over a million such procedures are now performed annually.

Prof. Mourou is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and a foreign member of the Russian Science Academy, the Austrian Sciences Academy, and the Lombardy Academy for Sciences and Letters.  He is Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur and was awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics with his former student Donna Strickland.


An extreme-light laser is a universal source which provides a vast range of high-energy radiation and particles along with the highest field, pressure, temperature and acceleration produced to date. It offers the possibility to shed light on some of the remaining unanswered questions in fundamental physics, like the genesis of cosmic rays with energies in excess of 1020 eV or the loss of information in blackholes. Using wake-field acceleration some of these fundamental questions could be studied in the laboratory. In addition, extreme light makes possible the study of the structure of vacuum and particle production in "empty" space, which is one of the field’s ultimate goals, reaching into the fundamental QED (quantum electrodynamics) and possibly QCD (quantum chromodynamics) regimes.

Looking beyond today’s intensity horizon, Dr. Mourou will introduce a new concept that could make possible the generation of attosecond-zeptosecond (10-18 – 10-21 seconds) high-energy coherent light pulses (de facto in the X-ray domain), opening up the Schwinger level [the zettawatt (1021 Watts) and PeV (1015 eV) regime]; the next chapter of laser-matter interaction.

Fall 2020 Distinguished Lecture Series in Physics
Date:  October 22-23, 2020
Speaker:  Didier Queloz, Ph.D.
Topic:  TBD

Didier Queloz is a professor at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, as well as a professor at the University of Geneva in Switzerland.  He was a co-recipient of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics.