Prestigious Stephen Hawking Chair in Physics Goes to Christopher Pope
COLLEGE STATION —
Dr. Christopher Pope, the Texas A&M physics professor and high-energy theorist who earned his doctorate studying under renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, has been appointed to a new endowed chair named for Hawking.
Pope will hold the Stephen Hawking Chair in Fundamental Physics, established with a recent gift from George P. and Cynthia W. Mitchell of The Woodlands. The Mitchells, longtime benefactors of Texas A&M, gave $2.7 million to endow the Hawking chair, to endow a second chair in high-energy physics, and to establish the George P. and Cynthia W. Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics. The gift also provides funding for the institute’s initial meeting, which will bring Hawking and other eminent physicists to Texas A&M next spring for a month-long scientific exploration that aims to spark fresh insights into the Nature of the universe.
Pope, who completed his doctorate under the guidance of Hawking, his advisor at Cambridge University, is considered one of Hawking’s most successful students and one of his closest collaborators, said Dr. Edward Fry, head of the Department of Physics. Hawking is famous around the world for his theories about black holes and the origins of the universe. He is also widely known as the author of the best-selling book “A Brief History of Time.”
As a student under Hawking from 1976 to 1979, Pope developed an exceptional relationship with the professor, in part because of Hawking’s physical handicap; he suffers from motor neurone disease, a condition that confines him to a wheelchair. Pope recalled carrying Hawking’s wheelchair up and down stairs. The handicap also made writing difficult for Hawking. But that drew him closer to his students, who listened as he worked out problems in his head and suggested the solutions. “Of course, he is brimming over with ideas,” Pope said. “But he couldn’t sit down with paper and pencil himself and do calculations. He would sit and think. He would be a tremendous gold mine of ideas. It was a very, very inspiring experience working with him.”
Pope said he was honored to hold the Hawking chair, and he expressed “tremendous gratitude” to the Mitchells, who designated $1 million of their overall pledge to establish the chair. Texas A&M University matched their contribution, bringing the Hawking chair endowment to $2 million, one of the university’s largest.
Pope said the endowment would allow him to bring visiting scientists to College Station to collaborate on projects and to share their expertise with students.
Pope is an international leader in the development of strings and M-theory, and is considered one of the most active current researchers in high-energy theory.
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Contact: Mark Minton (979) 862-1237, email email@example.com, or Dr. Christopher Pope (979) 845-7793, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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