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Faces of Physics Speaker Series to continue in February with planetary astrobiologist Dr. Abel Méndez

Graphic for Abel Mendez presentation
Marshall University’s Society of Physics Students will continue its Faces of Physics Speaker Series with a virtual presentation by Dr. Abel Méndez in February, with additional monthly speakers on deck for March and April.

Méndez, director of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo, will speak on “Habitable Worlds” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16. The presentation is open to all and can be found at It will include an opportunity for viewers to ask questions.

Méndez is a planetary astrobiologist whose research focuses on the habitability of earth, the solar system and extrasolar planets. He is a NASA MIRS Fellow with physics and astrophysics research experience at Fermilab, NASA Goddard, NASA Ames and the Arecibo Observatory. He is best known for developing the Earth Similarity Index, the Visible Paleo-Earth Project, and maintaining the Habitable Exoplanets Catalog, a database of potentially habitable worlds. He is also co-author of the popular science book Searching for Habitable Worlds.

Méndez is currently working on theoretical models of the suitability for life of planetary environments, the characterization and detection of potentially habitable exoplanets, and the observation of radio emissions of red dwarf stars from the Arecibo Observatory.

Marshall’s Society of Physics Students has been hosting the series to provide an opportunity to learn about a range of topics, such as life in space, the planets around other stars, the quest to understand and cure cancer, and mysterious outer space clocks called pulsars. The events include a chance for viewers to ask the scientists questions about their discoveries.

The talks are held virtually through YouTube Live, are free and open to the public, and will be appropriate for all ages. The series aims to highlight the work of researchers from underrepresented groups to promote inclusion and inspire the next generation of scientists to see a place for themselves in the field of physics.

“This is a great opportunity for students to see what working as a scientist might be like, but there is a little something for everyone in these talks,” said SPS President Jackie Sizemore, who is also a graduate student in physics at Marshall. “Physics is one of the most fundamental academic disciplines, so no matter what your interests are, you may discover something new and interesting to you.”

Coming up:

  • Dr. Kandice Tanner of the Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute. She will speak on the “Physics of Cancer” at 7 p.m. March 17, at
  • Pranav Sanghavi of West Virginia University will speak at 7 p.m. Monday, April 12. The link will be announced closer to the date of the presentation.

To stay up to date on the series, sign up for the mailing list at or follow Marshall University Physics on Facebook (@MUPhysicsDept).