President Steve Thorsett shares his scientific side during inauguration week

The birth and death of stars — and the story of how he discovered a planet — are topics President Steve Thorsett will share during his “Peculiar Stars and Ancient Planets” lecture Feb. 6 in Willamette University’s University Center.

The free event, Science Café with President (and Professor) Thorsett, begins at 7:30 p.m. in Cat Cavern and will feature a musical introduction by the Willamette student a capella group, Tandem. The talk is a part of a series of social gatherings leading up to Thorsett’s installation ceremony Feb. 10, when he will formally receive the powers of office.

“What all students want to hear about is how I discovered a planet,” Thorsett says. “The theme to the story is that there is serendipity in science. The most exciting things you find are sometimes surprises.”

Thorsett is Willamette’s 25th president and an internationally recognized astrophysicist. He co-discovered the oldest known planet, commonly known as “the Methuselah planet,” and has taught broadly in both physics and astronomy throughout his career.

Although the responsibilities of his presidency now consume much of his time, Thorsett says he’s eager to engage with the Willamette community and discuss a topic that’s long fascinated him.

“When I came here, I came as a president and a professor of physics,” he says. “It’s exciting to talk about what I’m passionate about and to share another side of my life.”

For more information about this and other inauguration events, go to