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C. I. Noll Award for Excellence in Teaching

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The C. I. Noll Award is presented annually to an outstanding faculty member within the Eberly College of Science. Nominations are accepted from alumni, faculty, and all students. Faculty may also nominate themselves or another faculty member. The award is designed to recognize a faculty member who has had a positive impact on students. One award will be given to a tenure-track faculty member and one award will be given to an instructional teaching faculty member or lecturer.


Nominations are being accepted for 2018/2019.
Please email Dawn Ebbs @ dme18@psu.edu


Eric Hudson and Patricia Buchanan are the 2017 recipients of the C. I. Noll Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Eric Hudson, associate professor of physics and associateEric Hudson head for diversity and equity in the Department of Physics at Penn State, is being honored for his ability to turn challenging concepts into engaging course material. One student commented that, although the material is difficult, Hudson presents it in a way that is both interesting and accessible. Another student acknowledged the many resources Hudson provides to help his students flourish. 

“Learning involves focused, monitored effort on the part of students," said Hudson, “thus good teaching involves motivating and providing students with the resources they need to make that effort.” 

Hudson also believes in the ability of all students to contribute to solving problems, which has led to his involvement in a variety of diversity initiatives and outreach activities. In addition to serving as the associate department head for equity and diversity in the physics department, he is also the director of education, outreach, and diversity programs for the 2D Crystal Consortium (an NSF user facility on campus), the chair of the Penn State Materials Research Science & Engineering Centers (MRSEC) Diversity Committee, and the faculty advisor for STEMComm and the Physics Outreach Program -- student groups focused on professional development and outreach.

In his research, Hudson investigates complex materials using atomic force and scanning tunneling microscopy -- imaging techniques that allow observations at an atomic scale. With the decreasing size of man-made devices and increasing use of material systems -- such as graphene -- that are only a single atomic layer thick, the ability to measure nanoscale structural and electronic properties of materials is crucial. 

“Even a single elemental impurity or missing atom can impact the properties of nanoscale materials and the devices they comprise,” said Hudson. “I hope to understand, for example, the impact of single atom impurities on the structural and electronic properties of neighboring atoms, and to investigate the exotic phenomena that can now be unleashed by building custom materials one atomic layer at a time.”

Hudson’s commitment to teaching and diversity have been recognized on numerous occasions in the past. He received the Penn State Society of Physics Students Faculty Teaching Award in 2013, the MIT Excellence Award for Fostering Diversity and Inclusion in 2009, the MIT Everett Moore Baker Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 2008, the Irwin Sizer Award for Significant Improvement to MIT Education in 2008, and the MIT Buechner Teaching Prize in Physics in 2007. He also received the Research Corporation Cottrell Scholarship from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement in 2006 and a National Science Foundation CAREER Award in 2004.

Hudson joined the Penn State faculty as an associate professor in 2011 and was appointed the associate head for equity and diversity for the Department of Physics in 2015. He simultaneously served as a visiting scholar at Harvard University and senior lecturer at MIT from 2010 to 2011. Prior to that, he was assistant professor and then associate professor at MIT from 2002 until 2010. Hudson was a postdoctoral researcher at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland from 2000 to 2001 and at the University of California, Berkeley in 1999. He earned a doctoral degree in physics in 1999 and a master’s degree in physics in 1994 at the University of California, Berkeley, and a bachelor’s degree in physics and linguistics in 1992 at the University of Chicago.


“I believe that everyone has the capacity to learn,”

Patricia Buchanansaid Patricia Buchanan, who uses a variety of approaches to facilitate meaningful student learning both inside and outside of the classroom. She promotes peer-learning whenever possible, encouraging group work in class and in office hours. Buchanan is particularly passionate about the introductory course Statistics 200, through which she has taught 25,880 students since she began teaching the course in 1984. In 2001, she and several of her colleagues received the Schreyer Institute Collaborative Award by the Penn State Schreyer Institute for Innovation in Learning for their collaborative work to redesign the course, which was transformed from a traditional classroom-and-lecture format to a highly interactive, technology-based class that encourages group activities and team learning. “I have devoted so much time and energy to this introductory course because it gives me the best opportunity to impact students who are mostly from nontechnical majors and will only take one statistics course while at Penn State,” said Buchanan.

Buchanan sets high, but achievable, standards. One student credited her success in Statistics 200 to Buchanan’s dedication to her students. “Although the course was really tough, she really worked with me to make sure that I understood the material.” Buchanan’s commitment to teaching has been recognized in the past with the Penn State First-Year Experience Faculty Recognition Award in 2005 and 2012 and the Penn State Panhellenic Council Teaching Award for Women in 1991 and 1993. She has given talks on teaching approaches at numerous conferences across the country and participated in well over one hundred workshops, short courses, events, and webinars to improve teaching and learning. 

Buchanan began teaching at Penn State as a graduate student instructor in 1984. She became an instructor in 1988 and a senior instructor in 2009. Buchanan earned bachelor’s degrees in biology and chemistry at Lock Haven University in 1978 and master’s degrees in in physiology and statistics at Penn State in 1987 and 1988.

Click here for a list of former recipients of the C.I. Noll Award for Excellence in Teaching.

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