Keynote Speaker: Patricia Burchat

Professor Patricia Burchat, Stanford University

Going far together — Advancing science and learning through collaboration.


“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This popular proverb — thought to have originated in Africa — emphasizes the strength of communities working together. It also applies extremely well to scientific discovery and learning. Some discoveries in physics are made by individuals or small groups, but many major recent discoveries could only have been made through collaborations that bring together diverse strengths and skills.

In this presentation, I will use my own experience in large collaborations to illustrate the breadth of challenges and opportunities that modern “team science” provides. I will focus on one particular project — the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope — being built now by an international team of scientists and engineers to produce the deepest-ever census of the Universe, and the associated Dark Energy Science Collaboration that is preparing to use this trove of images to better understand the fundamental nature of the mysterious effect we call “dark energy”. I will conclude by describing how students can contribute to modern team science, and how I incorporate “going far together” in my own teaching of physics.

About the Speaker

Patricia Burchat is the Gabilan Professor in the Physics Department at Stanford University. Her research focuses on studies of the Universe at both the smallest and the largest scales, to probe two questions: What is the Universe made of? What are the laws of physics that govern the constituents of the Universe? She has held a number of leadership positions in experiments at accelerators that probe the elementary particles and the fundamental interactions. She is now part of a large international team of scientists preparing for analysis of data from the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, which will provide the most extensive census of the Universe to date. She and her collaborators will use these data to investigate the nature of dark matter and dark energy, and the cosmological evolution of the Universe.
Patricia Burchat is a “first-gen” high school graduate. She received her Bachelors degree in Engineering Science at University of Toronto in 1981, and her PhD in Physics from Stanford in 1986. She was a postdoc and faculty member at UC Santa Cruz before returning to Stanford as a faculty member in 1995. At Stanford, she has served as Chair of the Physics Department and has been very active in introducing research-based pedagogy in the teaching of physics. She has received the Dean’s Award for Distinguished Teaching and the Walter J. Gores Award for excellence in teaching, and was elected as Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Physical Society. Patricia Burchat has played a leading role in the growth of the APS Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics.