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Some of the more than 100 scientists who gathered on Haverford's campus for a conference that celebrated Physics Professor Jerry Gollub's remarkable 40-year career.
Some of the more than 100 scientists who gathered on Haverford's campus for a conference that celebrated Physics Professor Jerry Gollub's remarkable 40-year career.

Jerry Gollub Honored With Two-Day Conference

On May 19 and 20, Haverford hosted a conference honoring Jerry Gollub, the John and Barbara Bush Professor in the Natural Sciences and Professor of Physics. The conference, titled Nonlinear Dynamics and Fluid Instabilities in the 21st Century, was attended by more than 100 scientists and featured talks by 25 invited speakers, leaders in the field who came from as far away as Taiwan. The event highlighted recent developments, and also celebrated Gollub’s remarkable 40-year career as a physicist.

“There are a lot of people who hold a very high opinion of Jerry, and the time was right—after 40 years of active research—to honor him for all that he has done,” said Bucknell University’s Tom Solomon, one of the event’s organizers. “This was not a birthday conference, and Jerry does not intend to retire soon, but we didn't want to wait for those events.”

Gollub has been a member of the National Academy of Sciences since 1993, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 1992, and he currently serves on the National Research Council’s Board on Science Education. He has won many awards, including the 2003 Fluid Dynamics Prize of the American Physical Society and the first American Physical Society Award for Research in an Undergraduate Institution in 1985.

“Jerry is one of the most accomplished scientists in the world today,” said Solomon. “He did some experiments in the mid-’70s with Harry Swinney that were the first to show the transition from order to chaos. Those experiments fundamentally changed our understanding of order-disorder transitions and were among the most important catalysts for the growing field of nonlinear dynamics. But Jerry didn't stop with the mid-’70s experiments. He has had a world-leading research program in nonlinear dynamics continuously [since then], and his research is as strong now as it ever was.”

Gollub was Solomon’s advisor when he was a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, and the conference brought together not only some of the best minds in nonlinear dynamics, but also many of Gollub’s other former students and postdocs. Sergio Ciliberto, for example, came all the way from Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon-CNRS to speak at the event and honor his friend. “I am quite grateful to Jerry for many suggestions he gave to me when I was at Haverford,” said Ciliberto, who did his postdoc studies with Gollub in 1983. “Mainly he gave me an example [of] and a strategy [for how] to look for important problems to study and how to start new activities.”

The two-day conference highlighted recent developments and future directions in the field of nonlinear and fluid dynamics, Gollub’s specialty. The event also included poster sessions, which featured more than 50 posters, and a concluding celebratory banquet in Founder’s Hall.

Gollub, for his part, downplayed all the attention, choosing to focus, instead, on the research that was presented at the workshops. “Of course, it is nice to be honored in this way,” he said, “but the best part is that the meeting is an opportunity for fruitful scientific interactions among people who are excited about their work.”

--Rebecca Raber

The ramp from Magill Library with Ryan Gym and Sharpless Hall in the background.

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