Sturm Memorial Lecture

In memory of Kenneth E. Sturm, a Wesleyan alumnus, this annual event is held in the spring and is open to the public. It features a presentation from an astronomer that is outstanding in their field and able to communicate the excitement of science to a lay audience. The event is free and open to anyone.

The 2024 Sturm Memorial Lecture

"Degenerates of the Universe"

Speaker: Dr. Rebecca Oppenheimer, American Museum of Natural History

From white dwarfs to neutron stars, and brown dwarfs to planets, the universe is full of "degenerate" objects, a term from physics that refers to the exotic state of compact matter within them.  Understanding the nature of degenerate objects is vital for a complete description of two of the most important cosmic processes: stellar death and planetary birth. Dr. Rebecca Oppenheimer, co-discoverer of the first known brown dwarf, discusses three decades of her own research on these small but fascinating denizens of the universe.

Dr. Oppenheimer is a Curator and Professor at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.  She is a comparative exoplanetary scientist who investigates planets that orbit stars other than the Sun.  Her optics laboratory is the birthplace of a number of new astronomical instruments designed to tackle the problem of observing nearby planetary systems directly, with the ultimate goal of finding life outside our solar system.

Where: Ring Family Performing Arts Hall, Wesleyan University

Reception and telescope viewing at the Van Vleck Observatory to follow the lecture.

The Sturm Memorial Lecture is sponsored by the Astronomy Department, the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, and NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium.

Click here to download a printable flyer for the 2024 Sturm Lecture.

Past Speakers

Year Guest Speaker Title of presentation
2023 Dr. William Herbst, Wesleyan University "How the Earth came to be: clues from the Asteroid Belt"
2019 Dr. Andrea M. Ghez, UCLA "The Monster at the Heart of Our Galaxy"
2018 Dr. Ewine F. van Dishoeck, Leiden Observatory "Building Stars, Planets, and the Ingredients for Life in Space"
2017 Dr. Daniel Eisenstein, Harvard University "Mapping the Universe with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey"
2016 Dr. Mae Jemison, Principal of the 100 Year Starship Project "Exploring the Frontiers of Science and Human Potential"
2015 Dr. Sara Seager, Massachusetts Institute of Technology "The Search for Earth 2.0"
2014 Dr. Meg Urry, Yale University "Black Holes, Galaxies, and the Evolution of the Universe"
2013 Dr. Adam Riess, Johns Hopkins University/Space Telescope Science Institute "Supernovae and the Discovery of the Accelerating Universe"
2012 Dr. Alan Title, Lockheed Martin/Stanford University "Making the Invisible Sun Visible"
2011 Dr. John Mather, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center "History of the Universe in a Nutshell: From the Big Bang to Life and the End of Time"
2010 Dr. Jill Tarter, SETI Institute "Are We Alone?"
2009 Dr. Taft Armandroff, W.M. Keck Observatory "Frontier Science with the World's Largest Telescope"
2008 Dr. Steven Squyres, Cornell University "Roving Mars: Spirit, Opportunity, and the Exploration of the Red Planet"
2007 Dr. Alex Filippenko, University of California, Berkeley "Dark Energy and the Runaway Universe"
2006 Dr. David Spergel, Princeton University "Taking the Baby Picture of the Universe"
2005 Dr. Charles Bailyn, Yale Univesity "How to See a Black Hole"
2004 Dr. Alyssa Goodman, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics "Making Stars"
2003 Dr. David J. Helfand, Columbia University "How Superman Saw the Stars"
2002 Dr. Neta Bahcall, Princeton University "The Dark Side of the Universe"
2001 Dr. Robert Williams, Distinguished Research Scholar of the Space Telescope Science Institute "Through The Looking Glass: The Universe Seen With Hubble Space Telescope"
2000 Dr. Geoff Marcy, University of California, Berkeley "Cosmic Oases: New Worlds and Life in the Universe"
1998 Dr. Martha Haynes, Cornell University "Dark Matter and the Future of the Universe"
1997 Dr. Margaret Geller, Harvard University "So Many Galaxies... So Little Time..."
1996 Dr. David Latham, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics "Searching for Planets"
1995 Dr. Robert Kirshner, Chairman of Astronomy Department at Harvard University "Taking Measure of the Universe: How Big? How Old? How Do We Know?"
1994 Dr. Owen Gingrich, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics "Hypothesis, Proof, and the Censors, or How Galileo Changed the Rules of Science."
1993 Dr. Stephen Strom, University of Massachusetts "The Formation of Stars and Solar Systems"
1992 Dr. Vera Rubin, Carnegie Institution of Washington "What Newton Didn't Know About the Universe"
1991 Dr. Jay Pasachoff, Williams College "The Sun and Solar Eclipses"