By Carol Moran
One of the two new residence halls opening to students for the Fall 2010 semester is to be named Yang College, for Dr. Chen Ning Yang, a world-renowned physicist and 1957 Nobel Laureate. A naming ceremony is scheduled for Wednesday, April 21, at 12:30 p.m., according to George F. Sterman, distinguished professor and Director of the C.N. Yang Institute for Theoretical Physics.
Yang most recently visited Stony Brook nearly two years ago, but is expected to speak at a fundraising gala held in New York City on Thursday, April 22, Sterman said.
He was born on September 22, 1922, in China. After arriving in the United States on a Tsinghua University Fellowship in 1946, Yang became a revolutionary theorist and cultural icon representing better relations between the United States and China. In 1954, he worked with Robert Mills, another distinguished physicist, in formulating what is now known as the Yang-Mills theories. Their work now serves as the basis for our current understanding of fundamental physics and laws of nature, Sterman said.
“When you have a really profound discovery like that, it continues to develop for centuries,” Sterman said.
Yang spent many summers at Brookhaven National Laboratory. John Toll, the first president of Stony Brook University, approached Yang and convinced him to become a professor at Stony Brook. Yang turned down other jobs at Ivy League colleges to establish the C.N. Yang Institute for Theoretic Physics at Stony Brook University, where he supervised the hiring of other faculty members. He retired in 1999.
“He was very successful not only in bringing attention to the University at the very beginning, but also because he brought success to others at the University,” Sterman said.
The Institute continues to serve as an incubator for important work in physics, but Sterman said they are in the process of reinventing themselves.
“We’re hopeful that we’re really embarking on a new cycle of leadership built on the foundation that they have laid.”
Assistant to the Director of the C.N. Institute Betty Gasparino said it was very enjoyable to work for Yang.
“He’s not intimidating at all,” She said. “When he does speak to anyone, you get the feeling that he’s generally interested in what you’re saying.”
The second residence hall, according to an official close to the naming process who requested anonymity, is to be named for Paul Lauterbur, an American chemist and 2003 Nobel Laureate who pioneered the development of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Now widely used, MRI produces multi-dimensional images of organs and soft tissues. Peter Mansfield improved MRI for practical use, and shared the Nobel Prize with Lauterbur.
Lauterbur was born on May 6, 1929, in Sidney, Ohio. He received his B.S. in Chemistry from Case Institute of Technology in Ohio, and then worked for Dow Corning Corporation in their Mellon Institute laboratories, while also taking classes at the University of Pittsburg. In 1962, Lauterbur received a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh. Lauterbur became an Associate Professor at Stony Brook University in 1969, and remained at the University until 1985, when he left to become the director of the Biomedical Magnetic Resonance Laboratory at the University of Illinois. He died from kidney disease in 2007.
Director of Campus Residences Alan DeVries was not available for comment.