Carnegie Mellon University
April 30, 2018

Stephen Garoff and Hael Collins Win Mellon College of Science Awards for Education

Jocelyn Duffy
The Richard Moore Award: Stephen Garoff

Professor of Physics Stephen Garoff has been honored for his dedication to teaching with the Mellon College of Science 2018 Richard Moore Award. This award is presented every year to a faculty member in the college who is making substantial and sustained contributions to the educational mission of the college, particularly when those contributions have extended over a substantial portion of their academic career.

Garoff has been a member of the Department of Physics for over three decades, and in that time, he has been instrumental in shaping both the department and MCS as a whole. He advocated for interdisciplinary cooperation and research between departments, helping to implement courses such as Physics I for Engineering Students and Physics II for Biological Science and Chemistry Majors. Along with his departmental colleagues, Richard Edelstein and Reinhard Schumacher, Garoff developed the Modern Physics Laboratory, which has become a highlight of the undergraduate curriculum. He has striven to design curricula that emphasize real-world applications of classroom material and prepare students to succeed after graduation.

"The physics department is dedicated to providing students with education and guidance in and out of the classroom," wrote Department Head Scott Dodelson when nominating Garoff for the award. "More than anyone else, Steve deserves the credit for this."

Garoff has been unrelentingly dedicated to the education of MCS students. He served as advisor to dozens of graduate students in various fields across the university and supervised over 100 undergraduate research projects. He developed and instituted the Department of Physics’ graduate student orientation program and graduate student visitation weekend. The annual visitation weekend was one of the first of its kind among physics departments across the country and is now one of the department's most important recruiting tools. During his tenure as department head, Garoff remained dedicated to educating students, even teaching a course that had never been offered before.

Julius Ashkin Teaching Award: Hael Collins

Department of Physics Special Faculty Lecturer Hael Collins won the Mellon College of Science 2018 Julius Ashkin Teaching Award for his devotion and effectiveness in teaching. Collins manages to strike a perfect balance between challenging his students — pushing them to perform beyond what they believe themselves capable of — and having them appreciate him for it.

Collins has managed this feat with an extraordinary range of students, from non-science majors with a limited background in the physical sciences, to graduate students working in the most advanced and narrow topics in the field; at every level he receives rave reviews.

"I feel he went above and beyond in his effort putting this course together, and the class as a whole reaped the benefits of this, enjoying the experience of a very challenging and perhaps equally rewarding course," said one former student of Collin’s Introduction to Nuclear and Particle Physics course.

Collins has taught an impressive thirteen different courses in the past seven years. Students profess their appreciation for both his teaching style and the rigorous content of his classes. He balances difficult and unrelenting coursework with subtle humor, genuine care and a significant amount of extra time and effort to prepare additional study materials. Students are extremely grateful for his efforts outside of class, as he makes himself available for questions regardless of office hours, sometimes even attending student study sessions in the evenings. Through dedication and meticulous work, Collins has crafted the ideal environment to encourage and inspire his students to learn, to push themselves and to succeed.