Canadian Association of Physicists ASSOCIATION CANADIENNE DES


for Excellence in Teaching Physics

awarded to


Professor Alan J. SlavinOttawa, April 1996 - The Canadian Association of Physicists (CAP) is pleased to announce that its 1996 Medal for Excellence in Teaching Physics will be awarded to Professor Alan J. Slavin of Trent University.

Even at a university renowned for undergraduate teaching, Dr. Slavin is an extraordinary professor. He is an innovative, caring, and infectious teacher who has influenced hundreds of students and served the physics community in remarkable ways.

There are several aspects to Alan Slavin's teaching achievements. His accomplishments in the physics classroom come to mind first. Although he has taught courses at every undergraduate and graduate level, he is best known for his work in Trent's 24-week, first year physics course, PY100. Alan has taught it for fifteen years. At Trent, no undergraduate declares a major until the end of the first year. Each PY100 class includes many students who contemplate majoring in another sicence such as chemistry, biology, geography, mathematics, or computing. It also includes a small number who came to major in physics. Annually about half of Alan's PY100 class of seventy enter second year majoring in physics. This is a remarkable statistic and testimonial to Alan Slavin's inspirational teaching. Trent's fourth year physics classes regularly enrol more than ten graduating physics majors, exceeding the honours enrolments at all but a few of Canada's largest universities.

In PY100 students encounter a combination of traditional and innovative teaching activities. Alan includes essay writing, computer modelling and group research while continuing to employ traditional lectures and problem solving. He has authored a "history and philosphy of physics" for students in PY100 and grades the biweekly problems. His lecture demonstrations are legendary; years later alumni still talk about his 5-meter long human pendulum spectacular. He knows almost every student by name, and they know and respect him as a friend and mentor. He has helped other physics departments and faculties of education by describing his teaching in PY100. He has written papers, including one for Physics in Canada, on flow-charts for problem solving and on his successful use of a co-operative learning technique called "jigsaw".

Alan Slavin has made contributions to physics teaching beyond PY100. He authored a splendid lab manual for Trent's 3rd year electronics course. A few years ago he initiated a support group among the women students in our physics programme. This contributed to a better environment for, and an increased number of, women in physics. With Alan's help, and with the assistance of our education faculty, the group has reached out to girls in local schools. He has established teaching links with physics departments in 3rd world countries, particularly Mexico and Guatemala. He speaks Spanish and French, and has delivered physics lectures in both. Two years ago, Alan initated a formal year-abroad exchange programme between Trent's physics department and the physics departments at two Britih universiites. It permits high quality Canadian physics undergraduates to spend one year in Britian without losing any credits or time towards their degrees; this involved negotiating academic programmes and transfer credits with the partner physics deparmtents and gaining the approval of Trent's senate. This exchange programme brings outstanding physics undergraduates to Canada from abroad, enriching the on-campus activities for all physics undergraduates. Alan counsels those who go and welcomes those who come.

From time to time, Alan has encouraged highly motivated students to get involved with social issues where physicists can contribute; the Student Pugwash Programme at Trent has been active due to his encouragement. He regularly urges Trent students to attend and give papers at the Canadian Undergraduate Physics Conference. Alan's contributions to undergraduate physics teaching go far beyond the classroom.

Alan Slavin is an advocate for teaching among his physics colleagues and across Trent University. He regularly participates in teaching workshops, and encourages faculty members to interact over teaching matters. He has received the Symon's Teaching Award at Trent, a National 3-M Award, and an Ontario Lieutenant Governor's Award for teaching. He is an active researcher, supervising graduate students, and is a member of NSERC's condensed matter grant selection committee. He has his wife Linda are well known hosts of international students and joint group facilitators in Peterborough.

The CAP's Medal for Excellence in Teaching Physics was introduced in 1995 and has been awarded annually since. The 1996 Medal will be presented to Prof. Slavin during the CAP's awards banquet to be held at the University of Ottawa in June.

The Canadian Association of Physicists, founded in 1945, is a professional association representing over 1600 individual physicists and physics students as well as a number of Corporate and Departmental Members. In addition to its learned activities, the CAP also undertakes a number of activities intended to encourage students to pursue a career in physics.

For more information, please contact:

Canadian Association of Physicists
Tel: (613) 562-5614
Fax: (613) 562-5615

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