2020 Ryan Award Recipient
Teaching Professor, Department of Physics
Dr. Barry Luokkala is a teaching professor and director of undergraduate laboratories in the department of physics. He joined the department of physics in 1980 and has the distinction of being the only member of the faculty to have taught or co-taught all of the undergraduate laboratory courses that are offered in physics. The current form of the introductory physics laboratory course, 33-104 Experimental Physics, is largely due to his influence, and the enrollment in this course has increased more than tenfold over the past few decades. Dr. Luokkala has created several new courses in physics, including 33-100 Basic Experimental Physics, a laboratory course for students in the Health Professions Program. His interest in science fiction has led to a new course, 33-120 Science and Science Fiction, designed to foster an interest in the sciences among non-majors. The course uses clips from science fiction movies, spanning more than 100 years of cinematic history, as springboards for discussing current science and technology. The popularity of this course led to the publication of a textbook, “Exploring Science Through Science Fiction”, which is now in its second edition (Springer 2019).
Dr. Luokkala received his BS and MS degrees in physics at the University of Pittsburgh, where he did experimental research in the physics and chemistry of the ionosphere. During his years at the University of Pittsburgh, he met his future wife, Janet. They celebrate their 40th anniversary this year. He received his PhD in experimental condensed matter physics, supervised jointly by Professor Steve Garoff and Professor Emeritus Bob Suter, here at Carnegie Mellon University. He also serves as program director for the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the sciences and has been a science consultant for the Sloan Foundation Screenplay Competition in Carnegie Mellon’s School of Drama. His parents met here at CMU (then Carnegie Tech) during World War II. If that event hadn’t happened, Barry would not be here today. In his parents’ honor, Barry and his wife, Janet, have established an endowment in support of undergraduate research