Trailblazer of Physics: The Extraordinary Life of Leon Lederman

September 25, 2019
5:30 pm – 8:00 pm

Cindy Pritzker Auditorium, Chicago Public Library, Harold Washington Center
Harold Washington Library, 400 South State Street, Chicago, IL, USA

Register Now


Watch the event here!

This event will highlight Dr. Lederman’s contributions to science research at Fermilab and beyond, science education, and science outreach.

Dr. Leon Lederman was a Nobel prize-winning physicist with a passion for science education. He served as the director of Fermilab from 1979 to 1989. In 1992, he moved to the Illinois Institute of Technology, where he chose to teach freshman physics. He retired in 2011. With a career that spanned more than 60 years, Lederman, who passed away last year, became one of the most important figures in the history of particle physics. He was responsible for several breakthrough discoveries, uncovering new particles that elevated our understanding of the fundamental universe. His Nobel Prize was awarded in 1988 for discovery of the muon neutrino. But perhaps his most critical achievements were his influence on the field of physics and his efforts to improve science education. In later years, Lederman continued his outreach efforts, often in memorable ways. Sometimes, he would even set up shop on the streets of New York City and Chicago, and answer science questions from passersby.

Through his research, Lederman set the stage for Fermilab’s past and future success. The international Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility/Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment, hosted by Fermilab, is an international flagship science project to unlock the mysteries of neutrinos. By studying neutrinos, particles at the heart of Dr. Lederman’s work, scientists at Fermilab and across the world will paint a clearer picture of the universe and how it works. This will be the largest science experiment ever hosted on U.S. soil.

During this celebration of Dr. Lederman’s legacy, expect a variety of physics-themed discussions and events, including a Physics Slam and an Ask-a-Physicist panel!

A Physics Slam is a fun competition that pairs a student from the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (co-founded by Dr. Lederman) with a Fermilab scientist. Expect a no-holds-barred, light-hearted competition. Who will the audience choose as the winner?

In the spirit of his outreach efforts, the program also will have an Ask-a-Physicist panel. A team of scientists will take questions from the audience, in the same informal style of Dr. Lederman taking questions from people in Chicago and New York City.

Event Details

Wednesday, September 25, 2019, 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Chicago Public Library, Harold Washington Library Center, Cindy Pritzker Auditorium (lower level), 400 South State Street, Chicago, IL 60605. This program is FREE to attend but tickets will be required if the event sells out, so please register ahead of time. Seating will be first-come, first-served.

5:30 PM – Check-in, exhibit viewing

6:00 PM – Program starts: Fermilab’s Past and Future

With Nigel Lockyer, Director of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory

Joe Lykken, Deputy Director of Research at Fermilab

6:20 PM – Leon’s contributions to science education and founding of Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA)

With Rocky Kolb, Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor of Astronomy; Astrophysics and the Dean of the Physical Sciences at the University of Chicago, as well as a member of the Enrico Fermi Institute and Director of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics

6:30 PM – Mini-Physics Slam

With Minerba Betancourt, Cindy Joe, and Sasha Rahlin: Fermilab physicists will be paired with some of the brightest students from IMSA!

7:00 PM – Ask-a-Physicist Panel

With Jessica Esquivel, PhD, a recent PhD graduate in Physics and is currently working as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Fermilab.

Michael S. Turner, PhD, a theoretical cosmologist, who coined the term dark energy in 1998. He is the Bruce V. & Diana M. Rauner Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago, and was formerly the Assistant Director for Mathematical and Physical Sciences for the US National Science Foundation from 2003–2006.

Kirsty Duffy, PhD, a physicist and Lederman Fellow at Fermilab.

Don Lincoln, PhD, a senior scientist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) and adjunct professor of physics at the University of Notre Dame.

7:45 PM – Program ends, exhibit viewing

Parking and Transportation

The Harold Washington Center is easily accessible by most CTA trains and multiple bus lines. For detailed travel information visit or call the Travel Information Center at 1-888-YOUR-CTA or 1-888-CTA-TTY1 (TTY). For parking options, please visit

Notice: As a guest of Chicago Council on Science and Technology (C2ST), you agree to be photographed, videotaped, or filmed and grant C2ST permission to put the finished footage/photography to any uses that it may deem proper including marketing, advertising (print, radio, and television) and PR-related activities.

We are dedicated to providing an inclusive environment for everyone. Please respect diversity in individuals and in cultures.