Nobel laureate Kip Thorne to speak at Sweet Briar’s 2019 Engineers Week Banquet

Posted on January 14, 2019 by Janika Carey

Kip Thorne Kip Thorne

The region’s 2019 National Engineers Week Banquet at Sweet Briar College will feature a prominent speaker: theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate Kip S. Thorne. The event will take place from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20, in the College’s Upchurch Field House.

Thorne, who is recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on the astrophysical implications of Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, was one of three scientists to win the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics.

“We are proud to bring the engineering community in our region together for another exciting, thought-provoking presentation,” said Bethany Brinkman, director of the College’s Margaret Jones Wyllie ’45 Engineering Program. “Dr. Thorne’s contributions to the global scientific community are truly groundbreaking and we are honored to have him speak to us this year.”

This is the fourth year in a row the College is hosting the banquet, an annual event that brings together industry professionals, high school and college students, educators and members of the public.  The event, which has nearly tripled in size over the last two years, kicks off at 6 p.m. with hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar, followed at 6:45 p.m. by the dinner and program.

Advanced registration is required. Tickets are $40 general admission, $25 for college students with I.D. and $15 for high school students with I.D. Reserved tables for eight in a priority location near the stage and with custom signage are also available for $450. Tickets are free for current Sweet Briar students, staff and faculty with I.D., but must be reserved in advance. Pop-up exhibits, including display tables, are available at no extra cost. Please see the registration page for more information and to reserve your table. Registration will close by 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13.

Due to expected demand, unpaid tickets/tables will be put on a waiting list until payment is received. All payments must be received before the event. Payments will not be accepted at the door. Tickets will not be made available at the door.

Engineers Week Banquet Last year’s Engineers Week Banquet at Sweet Briar drew quite a crowd.

As part of National Engineers Week, Sweet Briar is again inviting high school girls (grades 9-12) from across the region to join its engineering faculty and students for Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, also on Wednesday, Feb. 20. Activities will begin at 3 p.m. and include hands-on design projects led by Sweet Briar engineering faculty and students, a campus tour and dinner tickets to the Engineers Week Banquet. Participants will also get to meet Thorne that afternoon for a special Q&A session. Participation is free, but space is limited to 20 students. Advanced registration is required.

Please note that while student participants are provided with a ticket to the Engineers Week Banquet that evening, tickets for family members are not included and must be purchased separately.

For more information about both events, please contact Rebecca Girten at or 434-381-6447.

Born in 1940 in Logan, Utah, Thorne is the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, Emeritus, at the California Institute of Technology. He received his B.S. in physics in 1962 from Caltech and his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1965, then returned to Caltech to teach in 1967. From 1967 to 2009, Thorne led a research group at Caltech working in relativistic astrophysics and gravitational physics, with emphasis on relativistic stars, black holes, the theory of time travel and particularly gravitational waves. Under his mentorship, 53 students received their Ph.Ds. He co-authored the textbooks “Gravitation” (1973) and “Modern Classical Physics” (2017) and was sole author of “Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein’s Outrageous Legacy” (1994).

Thorne was cofounder (with Rainer Weiss and Ronald Drever) of the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory) Project. LIGO — in the hands of a younger generation of physicists — made the breakthrough discovery of gravitational waves arriving at Earth from the distant universe on Sept. 14, 2015. For his contributions to LIGO and to gravitational wave research, Thorne shared (with Weiss and LIGO director Barry Barish) the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics, among other major awards.

In 2009, Thorne stepped down from his Caltech professorship to focus on a new career “at the intersection of art and science.” This has included research on geometrodynamics: the nonlinear dynamics of warped space time; Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster movie “Interstellar” (derived from a treatment Thorne co-authored, and for which he was executive producer); Thorne’s 2014 book “The Science of Interstellar”; a new secret movie project; a collaboration with composer Hans Zimmer and “visual effects guru” Paul Franklin on multimedia concerts about “The Warped Side of the Universe”; and a forthcoming book on “The Warped Side of the Universe,” composed of paintings by the artist Lia Halloran and poetic prose by Thorne. Read more about Thorne here.