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Stephon Alexander Honored by National Geographic

Stephon Alexander Documentary producers and science writers love someone like Stephon Alexander. He’s a cool physicist.

A man with tight dreadlocks, a hint of New York accent and a night gig playing tenor sax in a jazz band, 34 year-old Alexander is also a physicist who worked with the SLAC theory group for almost three years before recently relocating to Penn State. 

Alexander was recently honored by the National Geographic Society as an “Emerging Explorer.” The award is unusual since most recipients are mountain climbers, scuba divers or nature photographers.

Alexander said that the award only shows that physics and cosmology are becoming more mainstream and that a wider audience is starting to ask fundamental questions in science.

“[National Geographic] is broadening the scope of what people think exploration is. And that’s kind of cool,” Alexander said.

Susan Reeve, director of special projects at National Geographic, said there is more to exploration than forging a new route to the South Pole.

“We’re not only trying to find the next generation of story tellers but we’re also trying to redefine exploration,” she said.

Alexander hopes to use the $10,000 prize to strengthen research collaborations in the Third World. He said it’s important to strengthen ties with physicists in developing countries including his homeland, Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean.

He also hopes to encourage others to explore reality with their minds.

“So much of exploration takes place in the mind. You don’t have to take a long airplane trip or some dangerous trek through a jungle to explore. You can sit on top of a hill and the mind can take you there.” he said.

--Erik Vance