Aug. 30, 2013

Physics and Astronomy Department Celebrating 50 Years


Steve Padalino, Distinguished Teaching Professor of Physics at SUNY Geneseo (center), visits with Mike Rogers (left), professor of physics at Ithaca College, and Paul King, who is on the research faculty at Ohio University. Rogers and King, both 1994 Geneseo physics majors, are on campus to help celebrate the Department of Physics and Astronomy's 50th anniversary.

GENESEO, N.Y. – SUNY Geneseo physics and astronomy majors from around the country are on campus this weekend celebrating the department's 50th anniversary.

The department has quietly progressed over the years since the late Robert "Duke" Sells first led the department in 1963, just before Robert MacVittie arrived as the college's president. Sells was a legendary teacher and administrator, who often was seen around campus participating in pick-up football games. In 1973, Sells became Geneseo's first SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor.

"We can thank quality faculty members like Duke Sells and many others over the years for making our department as strong as it is today," said Charlie Freeman, chair of the physics and astronomy department. "Right from the beginning, our department has valued close interactions between faculty and students, high-quality teaching and outstanding research. These qualities continue to define our department in the best tradition of a liberal arts education."

Geneseo's physics department today is an integral part of the Integrated Science Center, which opened in 2006. The department has more than 200 majors and nine full-time faculty members. According to the most recent data from the American Institute of Physics (August 2013), Geneseo awarded 33 physics degrees in academic year 2011-12, which ranks first among more than 494 primarily undergraduate physics departments in the nation.

Geneseo physics students regularly participate in undergraduate research, both on campus and at other labs around the country. The college has one of the few particle accelerators at a liberal arts college, allowing undergraduate students to get hands-on experience in a state-of-the-art laboratory. The department also boasts a 20-inch reflecting telescope, mounted on the rooftop of the Integrated Science Center.

This past summer Stephen Padalino, professor of physics, took a group of Geneseo students to Ohio University for two weeks to use the university's accelerator lab to make nuclear physics measurements. While at the lab, the students were able to meet with 1994 Geneseo physics alumnus Paul King, who is a nuclear physics research scientist there (King is one of the attendees at this weekend's celebration).

Geneseo physics and astronomy students also routinely accompany Aaron Steinhauer, associate professor of physics and astronomy, to Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona to assist with his star cluster research. At the college's opening faculty convocation this year, Steinhauer received the President's Award for Excellence in Research and Creativity.

"It's very gratifying to see many of our alumni back on campus for this celebration," said Freeman. "We are very excited to hear about all of the wonderful things they have accomplished since graduating from Geneseo, and it is very rewarding for us to hear our alumni tell us stories about how their time at Geneseo helped them reach their potential."

Media Contact:
David Irwin
Media Relations Manager
(585) 245-5516