Whitworth Communications

For Immediate Release

January 11, 2007

Whitworth Physics Department Receives National Citation for Increase in Physics Majors

The American Association of Physics Teachers recently presented an AAPT Special Presidential Citation Award to the Whitworth Physics Department, for achieving an exemplary increase in its number of students majoring in physics. Physics majors at Whitworth have increased 600 percent in the last 10 years, from 11 majors in 1997 to 60 majors in 2006. Whitworth's steady increase bucked a national trend in 1997-2002, when the number of students majoring in physics in the U.S. was declining.

"The AAPT award is a much-appreciated acknowledgement from our peers of a great deal of hard work done by Whitworth physics faculty and staff, and by its students, whose many contributions enrich the department," says Richard Stevens, Ph.D., associate professor of physics and department chair.

In recent years the Whitworth Physics Department has garnered national recognition for excellence. In 2003 the department received a Council of Independent Colleges' Heuer Award for Outstanding Achievement in Undergraduate Science Education. Whitworth senior Ashley Gibbs, '07, and alumnus Caleb Hug, '04, joined a select group of undergraduate math, science and engineering students nationwide when they were awarded Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships in 2005 and 2003, respectively.

Stevens attributes the rise in Whitworth's physics majors to several changes the department has implemented, including a heightened emphasis on research and integrating student projects into classes.

"The most important factor is that our department faculty love teaching and science," Stevens says.

The physics faculty's passion and commitment help draw to the program talented students who distinguish themselves through study, research, graduate work, and careers in the sciences.

Notable recent alumni include:

  • Nathan Williams, '06, conducted undergraduate research at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center and the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, and now teaches science in western Africa through the Peace Corps.
  • Matt Lincicum, '05, is enrolled in the Ph.D. program in biomedical engineering at the University of California, Irvine.
  • Cale McPherson , '05 is earning a master's-degree in environmental engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
  • Ben McDonald, '04, is pursuing a Ph.D. in physics at Vanderbilt University.
  • Caleb Hug, '04, received a research assistantship from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he is enrolled in the computer-science doctoral program.
  • Sarah Guske, '01, was recognized as the outstanding senior in the electrical-engineering program at Washington State University, and received the Kolhauff Scholarship and the Boeing Scholarship while completing her degree. She is currently studying intellectual property law and patent law at the University of California, Davis.
  • Katelyn Allers, '00, earned a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Texas at Austin, and currently has a research appointment at the University of Hawaii.

Stevens accepted the AAPT award from Kenneth Heller, AAPT president, and Toufic Hakim, AAPT executive officer, during a Jan. 10, 2007, ceremony at the joint meeting of the American Astronomical Society and AAPT, in Seattle. The awards ceremony was a featured component of the meeting's inaugural Symposium on Physics Education titled "Overcoming Gravity: The Critical Force of Physics Education in Boosting National Competitiveness."

"The United States' failure to produce enough scientists and engineers has reached a crisis level – there is a great need to encourage young minds to pursue physics," Stevens says. "This award honors physics departments that have achieved success in this area and serves as an encouragement to other departments to emulate that success."

AAPT is the leading organization for physics educators, with more than 10,000 members worldwide. Its mission is to enhance the understanding and appreciation of physics through teaching. AAPT was founded in 1930 and is headquartered in the American Center for Physics, in College Park, Md. For more information, visit www.aapt.org.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private, liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The college, which enrolls more than 2,500 students, offers 53 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


Richard Stevens, associate professor of physics and department chair, (509) 777-4508 or rstevens@whitworth.edu.

Julie Riddle, public information officer, Whitworth College, (509) 777-3729 or jriddle@whitworth.edu.

Robert Headrick, director of communications and publications, AAPT, (301) 209-3306 or media@aapt.org.

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