whk-2004 goergen award


August 31, 2004

University Presents Goergen Awards to Faculty, Staff

The University of Rochester will recognize the recipients of this year's Goergen Awards for Contributions to Undergraduate Education in the College during the College's annual Convocation on Friday, Sept. 10. The Goergen Awards were first presented in 1997 and are named for and sponsored by trustee and former board chairman Robert B. Goergen '60 and his wife, Pamela. Thomas DiPiero, professor of French and of visual and cultural studies, and Wayne Knox, director of the Institute of Optics, will receive the Goergen Award for Distinguished Achievement and Artistry in Undergraduate Education. Terry Gurnett, associate director of alumni relations and development and also coach of the women's soccer team, will receive the Goergen Award for Distinguished Contributions to Undergraduate Learning in the College. Beyond individual achievement, the 2004 Goergen Award for Curricular Achievement in Undergraduate Education will recognize the Department of Computer Science, with Mitsunori Ogihara, chair, accepting on behalf of the department, and the Physical Chemistry Curriculum within the Department of Chemistry, with professors Robert Kreilick and John Muenter accepting for the curriculum. DiPiero has taught at the University of Rochester since 1987 and recently completed a six-year tenure as chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures. He teaches courses in French language and literature, critical theory, comparative literature, and visual and cultural studies, and was instrumental in the department's curriculum restructuring and in the creation of a new course in European studies. Knox received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University's Institute of Optics. He joined Bell Laboratories in 1984 and most recently served as director of the advanced photonics research department. Knox joined the University as director of the optics institute in 2001 and teaches a survey course in optics. He is a Fellow of the Optical Society of America and Fellow and Life Member of the American Physical Society. Since beginning his coaching career right after his own graduation from the University in 1977, Gurnett has led the women's soccer teams to two NCAA Division III national championships. He has been recognized for coaching excellence on the conference, regional, and national levels, and was selected as the NCAA Coach of the Decade for the 1980s. In addition, Gurnett is associate director of athletics and oversees the Friends of Rochester Athletics. The Convocation ceremony celebrating the start of the academic year begins at noon on Dandelion Square. It will be followed by a picnic on Wilson Commons Quadrangle for students, faculty, and staff in the College. Note to Editors: DiPiero lives in Rochester; Knox lives in Pittsford; and Gurnett lives in Spencerport.

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Introduction by Bill Green:

Four years ago, after 17 years at Bell Labs, Wayne Knox returned home to Rochester to direct our prestigious Institute of Optics. To that position-heading the oldest optics department in the nation, one that is responsible for sixty percent of the optics degrees ever granted in the United States-he has brought unparalleled vision, energy, and innovation. These traits are all palpably evident in his development of a new course: Optics 101: Optics in an Information Age. Optics once was the special preserve of students of optics alone. With Optics 101, Professor Knox changed all that, and invented a course accessible to anyone with even the slightest curiosity about optics. The course takes a non-mathematical approach to optics, and covers the basic topics in the subject, such as reflection, refraction, dispersion, laser technology, and telecommunications. It also pays attention to possible careers in optics. In Optics 101, students encounter optics not only in theory, but also in practice. Reflecting an ideal of a Rochester education, one of its key goals-as Professor Knox insists-is to help students understand optics by doing it. Begun only in 2002, the course is already renowned on this campus for its distinctive demonstrations, which occupy the last fifteen minutes of every class. As one student noted, "His daily presentations were both imaginative and innovative, involving everything from a fur-less Furby to a dried up orange, and their primary goal was to encourage us as freshmen...to personally engage with the material. Students now raid the tool box in Professor Knox's office to use these materials to carry out optics demonstrations in local schools.  How do students react to Optics 101 and its instructor? The comments speak for themselves: "He knows everything about everything and is a super fun guy. He rocks my socks off." And another: "He is amazing. My personal hero. Enthusiastic. Incredibly knowledgeable. Cares about the students. Has friends in the industry. Knows how to throw a party!"  Anyone who thinks that world-class researchers do not become world-class teachers has never met Wayne Knox. He incarnates the ideals of a Rochester education. It is an honor to present him with a 2004 Goergen Award for Distinguished Achievement and Artistry in Undergraduate Teaching.


WHK acceptance speech:

Wayne H. Knox

2004 Goergen Award Speech

I graduated from this institution in 1984 and headed to Bell Labs, where I spent seventeen years doing research. In 1999 I was contacted by the American Association of Physics teachers and informed that I had won the Richtmyer award for Physics Teaching. I immediately responded – oh you must mean my dad at The University of Rochester. They replied – no, we mean you. The award was in recognition of my educational activities over those years. I taught a summer course in lasers at Drew University, the Optical Society of America’s annual Educators’ Day, and worked with the American Association of Physics Teachers in helping to train the US Physics Olympiad Team.

But, even with this informal teaching experience, when I came here in April 2001 as Professor and Director of The Institute of Optics, teaching was one of my principal concerns. I was offered a challenge by Tom LeBlanc, who recruited me for the job. He asked me if I could create a new introductory course in Optics that would support some of the new exciting directions that I saw for Optics. I said “Yes, I’ll do that”.

But, how could I teach a course that would satisfy a wide range of students who may like to take it ? Very enthusiastic freshmen who have usually taken AP Physics and already declare in their first semester that they want to be an Optics major are looking for a challenging course with depth. BME, Chemistry or ME students are looking for more Optics background, perhaps even for Optics as a minor. Undecided students are looking for a major. Junior or even Senior music majors are looking for a science course.

Well…OPT 101 is my answer to this. Although the Optics major is chock-full of mathematics, OPT 101 is a non-mathematical introduction to the subject. It is layered with challenging extra-credit questions for the more advanced students, and it tests ability to write short essays as well as ability to function in interdisciplinary research teams that present their reports to the critical comments of their peers. Each lecture finishes with 15 minutes of in-class demonstrations, and students are encouraged to get involved in the demonstrations. We also discuss Optics careers and job opportunities.

It is exciting to start each September with a new set of wide-open eyeballs fixed on me, realizing that I have an opportunity to make new mistakes. Teaching seems to have that character – always challenging, always new and always changing. I am looking forward to using our new PRS (personal response system) in OPT 101, and I am adding a new weblog for the class this year to encourage more out-of-class discussion.

So, it is a great pleasure and honor for me to accept this Goergen Award. What a wonderful thing to win an award for doing something that you love. And, I would like to thank my wife for her support, my mom and dad for inventing me, and Tom LeBlanc and the University of Rochester administration for their strong support of Optics.