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Samarth Receives 2007 Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching

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Nitin Samarth, professor of physics, recently was honored with a 2007 George W. Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching. The award, named after Penn State's seventh president, was established in 1989 as a continuation of the AMOCO Foundation Award, and honors excellence in teaching at the undergraduate level.

Samarth, who has been teaching introductory-physics courses at University Park for the past 10 years, is honored for his longstanding commitment to undergraduate education, his classroom performance, and his mentoring capabilities.

Samarth developed the Dynamic Physics classroom as a pilot project for honors students. The idea was to incorporate an active, collaborative learning environment for introductory-physics courses wherein the instructor acts as a physics "coach" with students working on a variety of group learning activities. These activities have since been successfully incorporated into the large freshman-physics class at University Park.

His students laud him for his patience and his dedication. "Not only did he help me, but he would sit in his office with me, helping me and teaching me until he was absolutely certain that I understood everything," one wrote.

Another recalled Samarth's discussion of the Bohr model for hydrogen. "I remember Dr. Samarth saying that we should be so comfortable with the model that we would be able to derive it while sitting in traffic. I have had several other courses in areas such as quantum physics, solid state, semiconductor devices... and with retrospect, gathered since then, I am in a position to say that this simple concept is indeed as valuable as he said it was... and I could derive it in a traffic jam."

Samarth's work has been recognized with a Fellowship from the American Physical Society in 2003 and an Annual Award for Excellence in Physics Teaching from the Society of Physics Students at Penn State in 1993. He is the author of more than 135 research papers, and is coauthor of a book, titled Semiconductor Spintronics and Quantum Computation , published by Springer-Verlag in 2002. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, and is a member of the Materials Research Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Samarth joined the faculty in the Department of Physics in 1992 as an assistant professor. He was promoted to associate professor in 1998 and to professor in 2001. He recently was named associate head of the Department of Physics. Prior to joining Penn State, he was at the University of Notre Dame as an assistant faculty fellow from 1987 to 1992 and as a postdoctoral research associate from 1986 to 1987. He earned master's and doctoral degrees in physics at Purdue University in 1984 and 1986, respectively, and a combined bachelor's and master's degree physics from the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay, India, in 1980.

[ Julie Brink / Jill Shockey ]

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