By Luciana Loureiro
Nearly 23 years ago, Juliana Boerio-Goates walked onto BYU”s campus as a stranger, in a strange university among strange believers.
“Elder [Jeffrey R.] Holland took a risk on hiring a na?ve young gentile,” she said regarding when Elder Holland, then BYU”s president, gave Boerio-Goates a chance to begin her career at BYU.
Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2006, Boerio-Goates gave the Karl G. Maeser Distinguished Faculty Lecture, the highest honor awarded a BYU faculty member, said President Cecil O. Samuelson. Boerio-Goates spoke to students in the Marriott Center about science and how it fits into students” lives and values.
“A dieter, striving to lose a few pounds, probably worries about the calories in the food he eats,” Boerio-Goates said. “But to a scientist, calories are the measure in all types of energy, not just the ones stored in food.”
Since 1974, Boerio-Goates said, her scholarly work has been focused on how heat energy affects the properties of matter. “Counting calories” toward a wide range of problems – such as the stability of minerals found on Mars, metabolic processes and hydrogen storage – has been part of her project, she said.
Boerio-Goates said she wants to better understand the “nano” of the universe – a particle so small one could line up 20 million of them side by side in an inch. She said she studied the principle of magnetism with the nano particles, as well as the nano particles” diversity, since these nano particles can have different properties than of the actual whole.
“Some experiments show that such small particles can behave very differently from large chunks of the very same stuff,” Boerio-Goates said.
She also said there are advantages to this research, even on a common consumer level.
“There is hope that these differences can be exploited to create new technologies and new products,” she said. “On a mundane level, for example, more efficient sunscreens have been developed using nano particles of zinc oxide…[therefore] many states and the federal government have created nano initiatives, hoping to catch the nano wave.”
Also, Boerio-Goates said students and her colleague, Brian Woodfield, spent long hours collecting measurements to better analyze her research.
“Together we can do better science than we could ever do alone,” she said.
At the end of her lecture, Boerio-Goates combined her faith with science.
“I don”t claim to know whether every aspect of life can be achieved by processes governed by random events,” she said. “I do, however, know the predictable orderly outcomes are possible in the physical universe when a very large number of random events are allowed to take place.”
She said science and faith are possible to be seen as a bond.
“I invite and encourage you not to fear that knowledge will do away with God but rather to be open to the possibility that it may in fact deepen our understanding of him,” she said.