Zollman Receives NSF Distinguished Scholars Award

Dean Zollman, a Kansas State University distinguished professor of physics, is one of eight scientists who received the National Science Foundation Director's Award for Distinguished Teaching Scholars. Zollman was honored along with the other recipients at a ceremony June 2, 2004, at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C.

The National Science Foundation Director's Award for Distinguished Teaching Scholars recognizes and rewards individuals who have contributed significantly to the scholarship of their discipline and to the education of students in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, as well as those who exemplify the ability to engage productively in both research and education.  This award is part of the National Science Foundation's efforts to promote an academic culture that values a scholarly approach to both research and education.

"Dean Zollman is the ultimate teaching scholar," said K-State provost James Coffman. "He has taken this area of work to new levels and K-State is right there with him."

Zollman has spent his career searching for new and exciting ways to teach physics in the classroom.  He is being recognized for his integrating teaching and research.  In addition he received a $300,000 grant to do more teaching-related activities.

Zollman aims to conduct research on the reasoning and models that student’s use as they transfer basic physics knowledge to the application of physics in contemporary medicine.  He plans to use the results of this research to develop active engagement teaching-learning materials to help students learn about the applications of 20th and 21st Century physics to contemporary medical diagnosis procedures.

While Zollman has taught a full range of courses from graduate-level quantum field theory to conceptual physics for non-science students, his primary focus is on non-physics majors and future teachers.  He was director of the Visual Quantum Mechanics project aimed at creating instructional materials for high school students, non-science college students, biology majors and physics majors.

Zollman has used a variety of methods and practical applications to interest students, including using videos and CD-ROMs, as well as applying physics to situations students understand.  He also has concentrated on providing materials to physics teachers, particularly those teachers whose background does not include a significant amount of physics.

In addition, Zollman implemented a teaching assistant orientation program providing new teaching assistants with information about contemporary research on the teaching and learning of physics.  He was also an instructor in the early stages of the Developing Scholars Program, which attempts to retain students from underrepresented groups by involving them in scholarly activities early in their academic careers.

The Director's Award is the highest honor bestowed by the foundation for excellence in both teaching and research.  Past winners of the award include a Nobel Laureate. Recipients of this award were selected in a national competition based on their outstanding accomplishments as scientists and engineers and as educators.  In addition, each awardee submitted a proposal focusing on efforts to improve undergraduate education and/or the education of K-12 teachers and students that shows promise of impact beyond the awardee's institution.

Zollman has been recognized with many awards.  In 1995, Zollman received the Robert A. Millikan medal from the American Association of Physics Teachers for his notable and creative contributions to teaching physics.  In 1996, he was recognized by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, as the Professor of the Year - Research and Doctoral Universities - from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. He was named K-State's 1996 Coffman University Distinguished Teaching Scholar Chair for his innovation and excellence in undergraduate teaching.  In 1998, he was a Fulbright Fellow at the Institute for Science Education at the University in Kiel, Germany, where he investigated student understanding of quantum physics.

Zollman received his bachelor's degree in 1964 and master's degree in 1965, both in physics from Indiana University, and his doctorate in 1970 from the University of Maryland in theoretical nuclear physics.  He has been at K-State since 1970.  He was named a University Distinguished Professor in 2001.