American University of Beirut

Physics & Public Policy

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ ​ ​

​- Poster ​-


"In this era of interdisciplinary science, of biological physics, network science and econophysics, defining physics as the science of the properties of matter and energy is increasingly outdated and inaccurate. We are therefore prompted to ask anew: what is physics?" *

Building on in-house research on energy, complexity, and stochastic phenomena, the Department of Physics at the American University of Beirut, in collaboration with the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, and the Lebanese CNRS,  is launching the “Physics and Public Policy” initiative with the aim of exploring the productive interface between physics and policy, for the benefit of our students, our colleagues and the broader community. 

T​​he initiative will work to strengthen the exchange between its parties, integrating public policy thinking in the teaching and research of the Department where appropriate, contributing Physics modeling and insights to public policy, and sustaining Physics research in fusion, materials science, non-equilibrium statistical mechanics, and computational physics. 

The initiative kicks-off with a lecture series highlighting journeys of physicists who engage in the complex landscape of public policy and contribute to the effort of solving societal problems. The lecture series, which is part of the initiative, will feature prominent physicists, thinkers, and policy practitioners to discuss their work, career path, and inflection points in their fields.​

The series starts with Professor and nuclear physicist Zia Mian of Princeton University on the global effort for nuclear disarmament and the role of physics in moving towards a more peaceful world.

The second lecture, by Dr. Adonai Herrera-Martinez, associate director at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, examines the challenge of accelerating climate action while achieving development goals. Adonai will also share how a physics education can spur a successful career in international development.

In the third lecture, Dr. Laura Grego, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, will discuss the interactions between physics and public policy and her work on space security.

Professor Victor Yakovenko of the University of Maryland concludes the series by examining the global challenge of economic inequality through the lens of statistical physics.​

*Sinatra, R., Deville, P., Szell, M., Wang, D., and Bara​ba​​si, A. L. (2015). A century of physics. Nature Physics, 11(10), 791


​​​​Speaker & Affiliation​
Date & Time​
Zia Mian
Princeton University​
​The Struggle Against the Bomb: The Responsibility of Scientists as Intellectuals​
April 22nd, 2021
at 4:00 pm
Adonai Herrera-Martínez
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development​
Physics and International Development: Energy and Climate Change​​May 27th, 2021
at 4:00 pm
​Laura Grego
Union of Concerned Scientists
Physics and the Security and Sustainability of Outer Space​June 10th, 2021
at 4:00 pm
Victor Yakovenko
University of Maryland
Economic Inequality from a Statistical Physics Point of View​
​June 24th, 2021
at 4:00 pm

Registration Link

Meeting ID: 978 5810 0666

Passcode: 037532


  • Zia Mian


    Zia Mian is a physicist and co-director of Princeton University's Program on Science and Global Security, part of the School of Public and International Affairs. An expert on the policy and technical aspects of nuclear weapons, he received the American Physical Society’s 2019 Leo Szilard Award “for promoting global peace and nuclear disarmament”. Previously he received the 2014 Linus Pauling Legacy Award for “accomplishments as a scientist and as a peace activist in contributing to the global effort for nuclear disarmament and for a more peaceful world.” He is one of the founders of the Physicists Coalition for Nuclear Threat Reduction, and he serves on the Board of the Arms Control Association. For more details, see --​eam/zia-mian

  • Adonai Herrera-Martínez

    Between September 2017 to August 2019, Adonai was the Bank’s President Lead Adviser, supporting Sir Suma in his role as chief of staff of the Bank. Prior to this and since 2009, he was the EBRD Sustainable E​nergy Manager based in Istanbul. His work included the coordination of the sustainable energy activities of the Bank in Turkey, covering private sector investments, technical assistance to clients and policy dialogue. He co-led the development of the National Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Action Plans for Turkey.

    Adonai previously worked at UNDP in New York and Dakar, and at CERN in Geneva. He received his MBA degree from INSEAD in 2009 and his PhD in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Cambridge in 2004, having developed his research at CERN, with Professor Carlo Rubbia (Physics Nobel Laureate in 1984), in the topic of Elimination of Nuclear Waste in Accelerator-Driven Systems. Since June 2019, Adonai Herrera-Martínez is the Director for Environmental Funds​ at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). He manages a portfolio of c. EUR 500 million in grant allocations for sustainable development projects across the region. He also chairs the green finance attribution, monitoring and reporting committee for the EBRD.

  • Laura Grego


    Dr. Laura Gre​go​ a senior scientist and research director in the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. A physicist by training, she works at the intersection of science and policy on the topics of nuclear weapons, missile defense, and space security. She has authored or co-authored numerous papers on a range of topics, including cosmology, space security, and missile defense, and has testified before Congress and addressed the UN General Assembly and the UN Conference on Disarmament on security issues. Before joining UCS, Dr. Grego was a postdoctoral researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. She earned a PhD in experimental physics at the California Institute of Technology, and a BS in physics and astronomy at the University of Michigan.

  • ​​ Victor Yakovenko​


    Victor Yakovenko is a Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and was a recipient of the Sloan Research Fellowship and the Packard Fellowship in Science and Engineering. He is a theoretical physicist with more than 30 years of research in electronic properties of various materials. In addition, he joined the emergent econophysics movement in 2000 by publishing a paper "Statistical Mechanics of Money". Over the next twenty years, his ideas became increasingly popular and initiated an expanding wave of follow-up papers by many researchers around the world. The work by Yakovenko has also been​ covered in the media, such as Science magazine, New York Times Magazine, American Scientist, New Scientist, Science TV Channel, Australian Financial Review, and the UK Engineering and Technology Magazine. Yakovenko has given more than 100 invited talks on this subject. He was a recipient of a grant from the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

    Victor Yakovenko graduated from Moscow Physical-Technical Institute with M.S. in 1984 and completed his Ph.D. at the Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics, Moscow in 1987, where he was subsequently employed as a Research Scientist. In 1991 he became a Postdoc at the Department of Physics, Rutgers University. In 1993 he joined the University of Maryland, College Park as Assistant Professor and became Associate Professor in 1999 and Full Professor in 2004.​​​


  • American University of Beirut
    • Department of Physics (Malek Tabbal, Sara Najem)​
    • The Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (Ali Ahmad)
    • Center for Advanced Mathematical Sciences


  • ​​National Council for Scientific Research-Lebanon (CNRS-L) 

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