The University has endured many changes during the past 45 years — four tigers have earned the moniker "Mike," and eight chancellors, including the University's first, have lead the school. But during this nearly half century, Robert O'Connell has remained a constant fixture.O'Connell, the University's longest-serving tenured professor, first came to the University in January 1964 and has been teaching theoretical physics ever since. "Physics is my thing," O'Connell said. "I always knew I wanted a career in physics." Irish-born O'Connell received his bachelor's degree at the National University of Ireland in 1953. After completing college and working as a telecommunications engineer for four years, O'Connell said he decided to come to the U.S. for opportunities in scientific fields. "It was at a time when the U.S. was really getting into science in a big way," O'Connell said. "That's the main reason I came." After getting his Ph.D, at the University of Notre Dame in 1962, O'Connell returned to Ireland to marry his fiance, Josephine, who was living there at the time.  O'Connell worked at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies for a year, but said conditions in Ireland weren't favorable for theoretical physics. He then started looking for positions in the southern U.S., and he received an offer from LSU in January of 1964. O'Connell said he came at a fortunate time for science because the University had just received the National Science Foundation's Centers of Excellence grant. "This was at a time when a lot of money was being put into science," he said. O'Connell said he was never interested in administration. After serving a term as faculty senate president in 1986, he said he decided he didn't want to pursue administration as a career. "It wasn't for me," he said. "I just like what I'm doing and my aim at the time was to work hard and creatively with my research. As a result, I was awarded a Boyd professorship in 1986." A Boyd professorship is the highest academic title in the LSU System and is based primarily on research, O'Connell said. O'Connell said keeping updated on global research is important to him. He said he often visits international universities."Every summer I generally go back to the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies," he said. "It's important to interact with the international community."Michael Cherry, chair of the physics and astronomy department, said the department is pleased to have a faculty member like O'Connell, who is well-known around the world. "He is a tremendously valuable and productive member of our faculty," Cherry said. "He is unique in that he teaches some of our advanced courses where he is the expert on the subject." After working at LSU for nearly half a century, O'Connell said he has seen a lot of campus growth. "Clearly the University has made fantastic progress in terms of its national recognition," he said. "In the early days, there were a lot of very good people working at LSU who were really responsible for moving LSU forward." O'Connell said while the theoretical work at LSU has "grown by leaps and bounds" from his arrivial at LSU, he said he has also seen changes outside his department. "The campus still has the same attractions, but, as a condition of progress, it is losing a lot of green spaces," he said. "They have put up more buildings, but I suppose one cannot complain about that." O'Connell said he thinks the University is handling the current budget cuts well. "Obviously, its happening all over the country, so we aren't unique in that," he said. "I think the chancellor, administration and faculty senate president are handling things very well." O'Connell said part of what has kept him at the University are the research opportunities. "At a big University like LSU, the big concentration is on research," he said. "I focus on quantum theory nowadays and general relativity." O'Connell said it's hard to explain the details of his research to the common person. "My wife keeps asking me that question all the time, and I'm afraid I'm inclined to not answer," he said. "However, she's still with me." O'Connell said he enjoys teaching higher-level courses and it's important to have relationships with his students, particularly the ones working with him.  ----Contact Sarah Eddington at seddington@lsureveille.com 

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