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Physics Professor Honored With C.I. Noll Award for Teaching

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17 October 2002 -- Richard Robinett, professor of physics and assistant department head, has been selected as the winner of the C.I. Noll Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Sponsored by the Eberly College of Science Student Council and Alumni Society, the award represents the highest honor for undergraduate teaching in the college. The winner is chosen by a committee of students and faculty from nominees suggested by students, faculty, and alumni. The award includes a monetary grant and the inscription of Robinett's name on a plaque alongside previous winners of the award.

"I was very surprised and pleased to think that students had thought enough of what I've done to award it to me," said Robinett, who has been teaching physics at Penn State since 1986.

During his time at Penn State, Robinett has taught a broad range of physics courses for students in both science and nonscience majors. Two classes among his recent teaching responsibilities help build the science foundation of scores of students at the University: one is the first semester of a two-semester, algebra-based, lab-included introductory physics class taken by many life-science students, both in the Eberly College of Science and in other colleges; the other is the physics department's first-year seminar class, which Robinett initiated, developed, organized, and has taught, which introduces students to many aspects of the physics major and educational opportunities outside the classroom.

"I am delighted that Rick has been selected as a recipient of this award," said Jayanth Banavar, head of the Department of Physics. "He is a terrific role model for us. He cares deeply about our students and has made a very positive difference in many young lives. We are proud to have him on our team."

The C.I. Noll award is the latest in a series of Penn State teaching awards Robinett has received. In 1999, he was presented with the Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching, a University-wide award for outstanding teaching at the undergraduate level. He also received, in 1994 along with three colleagues, the Provost's Award for Collaborative Instruction and Curricular Innovation. And, in 1992, he was awarded the Penn State Society of Physics Students Teaching Award.

"I really enjoy teaching and I hope it comes out in the classroom," Robinett said. Part of that enjoyment, he said, is inspired by a quote from former University of Chicago President Robert Hutchins that is displayed on his office bulletin board, along with pictures of his children: "The university exists to find and to communicate the truth." That quote, Robinett said, "Nicely symbolizes the dual roles that research and teaching -- including research mentoring, advising, and undergraduate and graduate instruction -- play at a great place like Penn State."

Robinett earned his doctoral degree in physics at the University of Minnesota in 1981. He earned his bachelor's degree in both physics and mathematics, magna cum laude, also at the University of Minnesota, in 1975.

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