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Student to meet with Nobel laureates in Germany


March 01, 2010

Since 1951, Nobel laureates in chemistry, physics and physiology/medicine convene annually in Lindau, Germany, to conduct open and informal meetings with students and young researchers.

Each year about 30 outstanding graduate students are chosen to attend this prestigious, weeklong meeting. This year Cody Raskin, a graduate student in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, was selected.

Groups of top young researchers will be brought from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, National Science Foundation (NSF) Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences, National Institutes of Health National Institute of General Medical Sciences, and Oak Ridge Associated Universities. The DOE/NSF delegation consists of U.S. doctoral students whose current research at their universities is funded by one of the sponsoring agencies.

Raskin will be attending as part of the NSF delegation since his current research on supernova progenitors is sponsored by that agency. He is currently working toward his doctoral degree in astrophysics. In 2008, he received his master’s degree in physics from ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Moving to the School of Earth and Space Exploration from the physics department was a natural step for him given his interest in astrophysics.

The selected graduate students and junior researchers from around the world will participate in discussions with the Nobel laureates this summer, June 27 to July 2. During the meeting, the laureates will lecture on the topics of their choice related to physics in the mornings and participate in less formal small group discussions with the students in the afternoons and some evenings.

More than 60 Nobel laureates are scheduled to participate in the meetings, including American particle physicist James Cronin (renowned for his 1964 experiment that implied that reversing the direction of time seems not to precisely reverse the course of certain reactions of subatomic particles), French physicist Albert Fert (recognized for boosting the efficiency of hard drives and their readers, allowing drastic reduction), and Robert Laughlin (awarded for his discovery of a new form of quantum fluid with fractionally charged excitations).

"Meeting these scientific pioneers would be an enormous honor and an opportunity to learn about the trials and pitfalls of pursuing new and unique research,” Raskin said. “It’s not only an opportunity for academic and research advice, but also for practical career advice and avenues for possible collaborations in the future.”

In addition to the interactions with the Nobel laureates, Raskin and the other participants will enjoy the picturesque island city of Lindau, which is located at the eastern end of Lake Constance, just north of the Swiss Alps. Situated at the common border of Austria, Germany and Switzerland, the medieval city is rich in central European culture.

The competition is stiff, with more than 25,000 applicants globally and only about 70 selected. Evan Scannapieco, assistant professor, and Frank Timmes, a professor, Raskin’s thesis adviser and co-adviser, respectively, pursued his nomination.

“Cody is among the best graduate students I have had the opportunity to work with,” said Timmes, an astrophysicist in the School of Earth and Space Exploration. Raskin’s research focuses primarily on supernova progenitors and he applies a variety of techniques and models to try to determine which kinds of stars are responsible for certain kinds of supernovae. “Cody has the potential to become a leader in the field. His published work on Type 1a supernovae, our premier probes of the accelerating universe, is already having an impact on the field.”

Raskin helped develop and implement a completely new observational approach to determine the types of stars that result in Type 1a supernovae, a method that has already been incorporated into the science plans of several upcoming large projects and space missions. He also carried out a series of massively-parallel computations that identified a completely new mechanism for forming Type 1a supernovae, through the collision of two white dwarf stars. This resulted in a paper that is opening up a whole new subfield of research, and according to Scannapieco, his ongoing work is keeping him at the forefront of this area. 

“Cody is a fantastic student whose physical intuition, talent, and passion for his work set him apart from his peers,” said Scannapieco, a theoretical astrophysicist. “In the little over a year he has been in our school’s Ph.D. program in astrophysics, he has already published two remarkable first author refereed papers.”

With a career goal of becoming a tenure-track astronomy professor at a major university, Raskin is well on his way.

“Hopefully, I can bring ASU's unique approach to collaborative science to light among the group,” Raskin said.