Neil J. Cornish - MSU

Neil J. Cornish headshot

Montana State University professor Dr. Neil J. Cornish will close out the lecture series with an explanation of the role current and former MSU students played in a project to prove the existence of gravitational waves predicted a century ago by Albert Einstein. The MSU scientists contributed to the worldwide study that led to the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics, awarded to an MIT professor and his collaborators from California Institute of Technology.

An August, 2017 discovery helped solve the mystery of the origin of heavy elements such as gold, platinum, uranium and plutonium. This new field of gravitational wave astronomy has revolutionized our understanding of the universe, Cornish says.

Cornish grew up on a sheep station in Australia where his nights were spent under a canopy of stars that started him on his journey to learn what makes the universe tick. His journey took him to work with Stephen Hawking’s group at the University of Cambridge and to Princeton University where he worked on a NASA mission that imaged the afterglow of the Big Bang. Now, he is a physics professor at MSU and director of the eXtreme Gravity Institute, called XGI.

Cornish and his research group shared the 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics and the 2016 Gruber Cosmology prize for the discovery of gravitational waves. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and serves as a NASA science adviser.