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How are we here?

September 24, 2013
David Hedin

David Hedin

Two thousand years ago, philosophers of nature believed the universe was made from symmetrical forms such as circles.

Physicists now know that a perfectly symmetric universe is a lifeless void – that it’s the asymmetries that give rise to forms from stars to life itself and offer clues to one of time’s most elusive mysteries.

It’s a puzzle that intrigues David Hedin, a Board of Trustees Professor and Distinguished Research Professor in the NIU Department of Physics.

“I am fascinated with the question, ‘How are we here?’ – that is, what aspects of the universe allow intelligent life to try and figure out our existence,” says Hedin, who formed NIU’s experimental particle physics group and leads NIU’s efforts on the and Mu2e experiments at Fermilab.

“Yet-to-be understood physics at the very beginning of time impacts everyone’s daily life,” he adds, “in that we would not exist if that physics were different.”

Hedin will deliver a Board of Trustees Professor Seminar on “Understanding Our Asymmetrical Universe” at noon Monday, Oct. 7, in the Capitol Room of the Holmes Student Center.

Refreshments will be served at 11:30 a.m. The seminar is open to all; no registration is required.

DØ logoA fellow of the American Physical Society who joined NIU in 1987, Hedin has obtained more than $10 million in external funding, has directed 20 M.S. and Ph.D. thesis students and supervised 95 undergraduate students here.

Named a Presidential Research Professor in 1998 and a Board of Trustees Professor in 2009, he initiated the physics outreach program in 2001 that later evolved to the current STEM Outreach program and procured the telescope and other equipment for the Davis Hall Observatory.

During his talk, Hedin will describe a measurement of matter-antimatter asymmetries made by the DØ experiment at Fermilab. He also will give an overview of NIU’s contribution to the design, construction, and operation of DØ’s muon system, including the efforts of 77 undergraduate and 44 graduate students.

“As NIU is so close to Fermilab, it is good that the campus community has a feel for what faculty and students have been doing there the past 25 years,” he said. “One can’t predict scientific research, and individuals even on large multi-national projects can make a difference in the new science that is discovered.”

The Oct. 7 presentation is sponsored by the Office of the Provost and the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center. For more information, call (815) 753-0595 or email [email protected].


Hedin will reprise his presentation eight days later as the guest of the Friends of the NIU Libraries.

The program begins at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15, in the staff lounge on the lower level of Founders Memorial Library. This event is also free and open to the public. Free parking is available after 7 p.m. in the Visitors Parking Lot located on Carroll Avenue.

Call (815) 753-8091 or email [email protected] for more information on the Friends of NIU Libraries event.