The Personal Blog of Stephen Sekula

Anti-Steve: the week in review (2/1-2/5)

My nominees for the SMU HOPE award, Christo (left) and Lucy (right).
My nominators for the SMU HOPE award, Christo (left) and Lucy (right). Photo by Mark Kerins.

Last week was a whirlwind of a week. I attended an awards banquet on Tuesday night for professors nominated for the SMU Honoring Our Professors’ Excellence awards, only to then have it revealed I had also been selected for a more significant honor. I delivered my Godbey Lecture on Thursday to celebrate 100 yeards of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. I hosted my first STEM “Facul-Tea” time on Friday. And… I caught my third cold or flu in two months. What a week.


The leaded crystal statue given for being the HOPE Professor of the Year. It's beautiful. I have no words.
The leaded crystal statue given for being the HOPE Professor of the Year. It’s beautiful. I have no words.

The HOPE award is given by student staff nominations of professors whom they believe have gone above and beyond the call of duty both inside and outside the classroom. Many weeks ago, I was informed that I had been nominated for one of these awards and was invited to the awards banquet, which was held in the SMU Meadows MUseum of Art this last Tuesday. What I did not know was that I had also been selected by a panel to receive the HOPE Professor of the Year award for 2016. They all played it very close to the vest; even my student nominators had only thinly become aware that I was the selected candidate in the few days before the event, and they had some funny stories to tell about finding out (“YOLO”).

Godbey Lecture

After months of developing it and days of stressing about delivering it, I finally gave my Godbey Lecture marking 100 years since Albert Einstein published what is considered the most formal and developed version of the General Theory of Relativity. The event was held at the SMU Meadows Museum of Art on Thursday night, preceded by a wine and cheese reception. I had a chance to meet many wonderful people, including regular attendees of the lecture series and some students from the W. H. Adamson high school in Dallas.

Nervous as I was, the lecture seemed to go really well. Physics colleagues who attended it threatened to tell me all the mistakes I made. And I know I didn’t get everything quite right. But that’s the risk of standing in front of 60-80 people and speaking extemporaneously with just a slide deck and a head full of information about the history of science, the life of Einstein, and the consequences of relativity. But none of that matters. If you want to learn the deep details of physics, take my physics classes. If you want to get excited about the future of physics, listen to a public lecture. It was great to interact with audience members before and after the event. Some seem surprised when I introduced myself; I got the sense that speakers don’t often mingle with the crowd… which, to me, seems odd.


STEM Faculty Tea Time – Facul-Tea!


I host tea times with students every other week, and in the alternate weeks I’ve started hosting tea times with other STEM faculty at SMU. I’ll be rotating through a long list of STEM faculty for the semester, but I started with five colleagues this past week, three of whom were able to make the agreed-upon best time on Friday. It was nice to learn more about some of my colleagues at SMU, and even better for them to get to know each other a little better. I am pretty excited to have these to look forward to every week, either with students or with faculty.


And, to cap it all off, a rhinovirus or one of its stupid relatives decided to run wild in my cells. Third time in two months. Not happy about this.