Public Release:  UC Riverside graduate student gets rare opportunity to consort with Nobel laureates

Michael Maroun is one of few selected worldwide to attend 62nd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

University of California - Riverside


IMAGE: This is Michael Maroun, a physics graduate student at University of California - Riverside. view more

Credit: UCR Strategic Communications

RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- Michael Maroun, a physics graduate student at the University of California, Riverside, is one of only 580 young researchers from 69 countries who will spend six days next month with more than 25 Nobel laureates at the 62nd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting.

Dedicated this year to physics, the meeting will take place July 1-6 in Lindau, Germany. The annual meetings, which attract thousands of applications from around the world, are known internationally for providing a forum for the transfer of knowledge between generations of scientists.

Maroun will interact with the Nobel laureates in panel discussions, seminars and during the various events of the social program. In this way, he will get to exchange ideas, discuss projects and network with the laureates.

"This is a terrific honor and it speaks to the quality of Michael's research and hard work," said Joseph Childers, the dean of the Graduate Division at UC Riverside. "It also underscores how highly valued he is by his mentors at UCR. We feel extremely fortunate to have such an outstanding student represent UCR at this year's Lindau gathering!"

Maroun's field of research is mathematical physics, a field so specialized that even mathematical physicists, Maroun explained, have yet to agree upon a definition for the field.

"I hope the Lindau meeting will make mathematical physics more popular than it is now and give it the international attention it deserves," said Maroun, whose advisor is Michel Lapidus, a professor of mathematics and a cooperating faculty member in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. "A variety of interesting problems are tackled by mathematical physicists. A typical question addressed is how we can go beyond our current model of particle physics so that gravity -- currently missing from the model -- is also included."

Originally from Boston, Mass., Maroun joined UCR in 2006 and is working toward a doctoral degree in physics. He is the recipient of a Graduate Division Fellowship and a Physics Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award at UCR; and a GAANN Fellowship at the University of Florida at Gainesville, where in 2002 Maroun received his master's degree in physics.

His interest in mathematics and physics began early in life -- specifically during dinners at home when his parents, both electrical engineers, would discuss their work. For his twelfth birthday, Maroun's father gifted him a compilation of physics essays that included contributions from prominent physicists like Einstein, and encouraged him to read only the text if the equations proved too challenging. The exercise paid off. When later Maroun took college courses in physics and mathematics, the material was familiar and came very easily to him.

"Michael is not only a very bright student, but he is a very original individual, with a mind completely of his own, who has the intellectual strength and depth to go off the beaten paths and the courage to straddle two different fields, such as theoretical physics and mathematics, as well as more recently, economics," Lapidus said. "He is applying his intellectual gifts to study deep problems at the border of mathematics and physics. He has already come up with some very interesting ideas and even written a highly original article in mathematical/physical economics."

Lapidus added that Maroun is an invaluable member of his research group who helps many other Ph.D. students in the group understand physical problems and find appropriate mathematical techniques to solve them.

At the Lindau meeting, Maroun is most eager to meet with Nobel laureates David Gross and Martinus Veltman, whose research comes closest to what interests him.

The first person at UCR to attend a Lindau meeting in physics, Maroun leaves for the meeting on June 27, stopping first in Washington DC, a requirement for all U.S. attendees. He will return to UCR on Aug. 12 after exploring research opportunities with colleagues in Europe.

"Being selected to attend Lindau is very exciting and a huge honor for me," Maroun said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, given that it won't be for several years that the meeting will focus again on physics."

Held since 1951, the Lindau meetings focus each year on chemistry, physiology/medicine or physics.

The U.S. National Science Foundation, which received thousands of applications for attendance at the 62nd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting from young physicists like Maroun in the country, is sponsoring his attendance.

"To apply, we had to summarize our research in 200 words or less," Maroun said. "That, interestingly, was the most difficult part of the application process!"


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