Lovelace strives to leave a mark on physics

In Features
William Camargo / Daily Titan

Geoffrey Lovelace, Ph.D., described his interest in science in the old Nintendo NES game Star Voyager, where the player has to travel the galaxy and overcome many obstacles, one of them being black holes. This, Lovelace said, initially sparked his interest in physics and in science.

After his intrigue with black holes from Star Voyager, Lovelace said he went to his local library and picked up the Encyclopedia Britannica to read up on black holes and other astrophysical phenomena.

Obviously, Lovelace said, the concepts were too much for a pre-adolescent to understand, but his love for science only grew.

When Lovelace was in high school, his mother, who was the director of a community college library brought him back a book by Kip Thorne, one of the leading experts on gravitation and Einstein’s theory of relativity.

The book, Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein’s Outrageous Legacy, opened and inspired Lovelace to pursue physics as a career and an ultimate goal to inspire others in the same way Thorne did made his imagination sparkle.

“I read this book and I was immediately fascinated with the science and the concept of time slowing down depending on how you’re moving and how time and space can be thought of the same thing,” said Lovelace.

Thorne’s book, Lovelace said, was not dumbed down on a conceptual level, but it made Einstein’s theory of relativity one that he could understand and grow to admire.

Lovelace said it was “serendipitous” that later on in his career, in graduate school, Thorne actually became his doctoral advisor.

“Getting to work with Kip while I was in grad school was very serendipitous,”  Lovelace said. “A lot of times you change your major going to college or you change your field of expertise in physics, but I got to do exactly what I set out to do,” he added.

As part of a grant obtained by Joshua Smith, Lovelace and Jocelyn Read were able to join Cal State Fullerton’s physics department faculty to contribute to and teach students about gravitational-waves and their potential impact of life here on Earth.

Lovelace said his goal for students was not only to get them involved in research, but to inspire them to garner a sense of accomplishment from thinking about complex concepts brought up by research and observation and apply them to life.

“Knowledge doesn’t come from professors,” Lovelace said. “It comes from observation and getting to discover for yourself new ideas to become a better person and a better citizen.”

“I believe very strongly that it’s important for every undergraduate to get an understanding of where knowledge comes from,” Lovelace said. “It’s something that people discover through their own creative activities.”

For the Gravitational-Wave Physics and Astronomy Center, Lovelace said he hopes that the work he and his students do in developing better technology will contribute to the international effort of exploring the intricate mysteries of the universe.

“It’s great for the students to enter into the field at such an exciting phase,” Lovelace said.

Lovelace said he is glad to have the chance and opportunity to leave a positive impression on science.

“I want students to have a positive view of physics,” Lovelace said, after recalling some feedback from a lower-division physics class. One student wrote that he wanted to learn more about physics so he wouldn’t abhor it so much.

That, Lovelace said, is something he wanted for all his students: to wrestle with the ideas and concepts and be in awe of them; not so it can intimidate, but so it can inspire as it did with him playing Star Voyager in his childhood.

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