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New lab honours founding physicist

Verena Smith officially opens a physics lab named in honour of her late husband Professor Ken Smith, founding Professor of Experimental Physics at Sussex

Students try out the new Professor Kenneth Smith MPhys lab in Pevensey II

A new lab to teach experimental research techniques to undergraduate physicists has been named in honour of Ken Smith, founding Professor of Experimental Physics at Sussex, who died last March.

Professor Smith’s wife, Verena Smith, was on campus on Friday (1 February) to formally open the lab, which will be used by students studying for MPhys degrees.

Family, friends and former colleagues also attended the inauguration event in Pevensey II.

At the event, Professor Philip Harris, Head of Physics and Astronomy, spoke of Professor Smith’s legacy to physics at Sussex.

He said: “I think that he would be proud to see what has become of the Department today.

“When so many experimentalists, myself included, spend their time sitting behind computers, I think it would have given him great pleasure to know that undergraduates here are learning genuine, valuable, research-quality experimental techniques.”

Professor Smith, who enjoyed an international reputation as an outstanding experimentalist, joined the University while the campus was still being built.  Over the next three decades, as well as developing a new research activity in which the Department is now world-leading, he made substantial contributions to laboratory teaching in particular. He also played his part in the administration of the Department, serving as the first Chairman of Physics, and then as Dean of the School of Mathematical and Physics Sciences (MAPS) and later as Laboratory Director. He retired in 1988.

His death last year, at 88, coincided with the 50th anniversary of the University’s foundation. Professor Harris highlighted the key role played by Professor Smith in these early years.

He said: “Still employed by Cambridge in 1960, he and his research group would meet at the Old Ship hotel in Brighton to discuss details of the undergraduate curriculum, while the campus here was still a muddy building site.

“Ken worked closely with architect Basil Spence to make this building, Pevensey II, fit for purpose as an outstanding physics laboratory, so it is all the more fitting that in its newly refurbished state the MPhys lab should find its home here.”

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Posted on behalf of: Physics and Astronomy
Last updated: Monday, 4 February 2013

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