Physics prof recruits in Third World

Physics professor Carlos Ord’oacute;’ntilde;ez’s efforts to help physics students in South America have earned him the 2009 John Wheatley Award.

The Wheatley Award is presented to people who have made contributions to the development of physics in Third World countries.

Ord’oacute;’ntilde;ez sponsored students to travel to the United States and connect with physics experts and work with state-of-the-art research equipment.

‘It’s an ongoing process because there are a lot of problems that we run into,’ Ord’oacute;’ntilde;ez said. ‘The (political) systems are different. There can be bureaucratic problems, cultural conflicts, and you’ve also got to deal with different personality types.’

Ord’oacute;’ntilde;ez wanted to be a professor since his days as a schoolboy in Panama. Teachers and scientists became role models for him and shaped his future in high-energy physics and relativity theory.

‘I think it’s important for children (in Third World countries) to interact with scientists because many of them do not know what a scientist is. They can only aspire to become what they know, professions they have seen,’ Ord’oacute;’ntilde;ez said.

Ord’oacute;’ntilde;ez has an elaborate network of university professors, colleagues and friends in Panama, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico and other Latin countries. His network helps him find potential candidates for his program.

‘ Ord’oacute;’ntilde;ez’s funding comes from the World Laboratory in Switzerland. Funds are provided to give dedicated students opportunities that they would not normally have access to.

Aside from teaching, Ord’oacute;’ntilde;ez is conducting personal research into the way our universe works. He is currently investigating fundamental aspects of black holes, quantum mechanics and gravity.

‘The discoveries are incremental, as far as how useful they are. Only time will tell,’ Ord’oacute;’ntilde;ez said.

Gravity may seem fairly straightforward, but there are different theories made by Issac Newton, Albert Einstein and Max Planck. Ord’oacute;’ntilde;ez is finding ways in which these theories interact, gaining a deeper understanding of how space and time behave.

Another one of his undertakings is the development of a world laboratory in Houston similar to the one in Switzerland. The goal is to create a central hub where the physics community can effectively collaborate ideas and talent.

‘ ‘There have been some exciting developments in the last 10 years because of physics. Something like this would benefit not just the physics community, but nanotechnology, biology and quantum mechanics for computations,’ Ord’oacute;’ntilde;ez said.

‘I’ve been the director of the world laboratory. I know how to do it. I know that (building) it can be done.’

A common misconception of Third World graduate students is that they come from an affluent background, Ord’oacute;’ntilde;ez said. State schools are highly subsidized, giving lower-middle class students a chance to earn a Ph.D.

Ord’oacute;’ntilde;ez puts the right people in the right places, allowing a researcher to work in productive research environments such as UH and the Texas Center for Superconductivity or putting them in contact with some of the best physicists in the nation.

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