Carnegie Mellon University
June 24, 2020

Virtual Classes Allow Physics Professor to Invite Distinguished Guest Speakers

By Ben Panko

In a semester that looked far different than usual, one Carnegie Mellon Physics class got the opportunity to virtually hear from some of the world's most famous physicists.

"I realized this was an opportunity to bring them in touch with famous people, to make the course more inspiring and to break up the monotony of the remote experience," said Professor of Physics Scott Dodelson, who also serves as head of the Department of Physics.

Among those accepting Dodelson's invitation to speak to his Quantum Mechanics class was his friend Brian Greene, a Columbia University physicist and science communicator who's written multiple bestselling books and hosted programs on PBS. "He had some great stories about appearances on the Colbert show," Dodelson said.

Also dropping by via Zoom was James Peebles, a Princeton University physicist who shared last year’s Nobel Prize in Physics for his research on physical cosmology. Dodelson noted that Peebles was excited to drop by because he'd felt so "cooped up" under quarantine in his home.

Dodelson also arranged for Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology, to give a full lecture to his students. Carroll is an influential science communicator known for appearing on television programs on the History and Science channels and for his popular science books and newspaper articles.

Noting the very positive reception by his students, Dodelson said he plans to consider bringing in guest speakers for his future classes.