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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Cooper award winner makes physics fun

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Dr. Kent Scheller, associate professor of physics, is the 2007-2008 H. Lee Cooper Core Curriculum Teaching Award winner. Scheller received ringing endorsements from faculty and students alike who cite his dynamic demonstrations that engage students’ imaginations and encourage them to apply physics to their daily lives.

Scheller teaches the core classes Introduction to the Physical Sciences, General Physics I and II, and Intermediate Physics I and II. His demonstrations, from blowing up a trash can to holding a concrete block on his chest while someone breaks it with a hammer, have become student favorites.

Dr. Scott Gordon, dean of the Pott College of Science and Engineering, said, “While students across the country may see physics as a difficult course and one to avoid, Dr. Scheller’s Physics 101 class typically has well over 100 students enrolled for each offering. He has developed a reputation for providing students with a solid course by providing a hands-on and fun approach to teaching and learning.”

In anonymous course evaluations, Scheller’s students write glowing reviews. For example:

“I just want to tell you that I think you’re a great professor. I catch myself applying physics to everyday life now.”

“I have never been good at science and never liked it. Thanks for making it so fun and enjoyable, but at the same time helping us learn.”

“Great job of applying physics to our everyday lives. I’ve learned more this way than memorizing formulas and equations.”

His colleagues estimate that Scheller spends several additional office hours per week going over lectures and homework with students. His concern for the promotion of science and scientific thought extends throughout the University. He produced a video entitled “A History of Scientific Thought,” available in Rice Library and used in Humanities courses.

Dr. Thomas Pickett, professor of physics, said, “Kent understands the importance of scientific literacy in the modern world, whether the student is destined for a career in science/technology or otherwise, and works hard to create some scientific competence as well as scientific appreciation in his students.”

Scheller holds a Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame. He joined USI in 1999.

The award will be officially presented at the Fall Faculty and Administrative Staff Meeting Monday, August 20. It includes a generous stipend, a plaque, and additional monies for travel and related faculty development.

Focusing exclusively on teaching, the Cooper award honors a USI faculty member whose work in University Core courses has been especially creative and successful in furthering UCC goals.

As this year’s winner, Scheller will deliver a presentation to the University community during the 2007-08 academic year. Details will be released at a later date.

The Cooper award is named in honor of H. Lee Cooper, long-time friend and supporter of USI.



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