Carnegie Mellon University
June 08, 2021

Manfred Paulini Honored with Richard Moore Award

By Emily Payne

Jocelyn Duffy
  • Associate Dean for Communications, MCS

Physics Professor and Associate Dean for Faculty and Graduate Affairs Manfred Paulini has been honored with the Mellon College of Science’s 2021 Richard Moore Award. This award is bestowed upon 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.

For more than a decade, Paulini has worked tirelessly to shape and transform the Department of Physics graduate program to be a source of pride for the department and its students. His greatest mission has been to provide a sense of community and support for each graduate student who comes through the program.

As director of graduate studies from 2008-2018, Paulini was known for his deep and genuine concern for the wellbeing of each individual student. 

To ensure that graduate students’ voices were heard, he instituted town halls every semester where students could discuss their concerns in an open environment, which led to significant changes in the department. For example, Paulini began participating in and monitoring all qualifying exams to make sure that there was continuity, transparency and fairness in the process. Students could also walk through their exam results privately with him in a safe and supportive space.

Perhaps most impressive was Paulini’s commitment to personally mentor all incoming students until they chose thesis advisors. Paulini helped students explore their interests and guided them towards potential advisors who would best align with their goals and ambitions. As their biggest advocate, Paulini was ready to help students with both personal and professional matters.

“Students came to Manfred with a broad spectrum of problems and felt very comfortable and safe discussing these with him,” noted Scott Dodelson, head of the Department of Physics.

Paulini also devoted substantial effort to building a supportive and encouraging community, where students could thrive as budding academics, researchers and professionals.

The department enjoyed new social programs that brought together students and faculty to get to know each other and share ideas as well as a popular series to introduce students to careers outside academia. He also strengthened the graduate curriculum by introducing BiasBusters trainings and discussions of responsible conduct.

In 2018 Manfred continued his mission to enhance graduate education within the Mellon College of Science as a whole. In his new role as associate dean for faculty and graduate affairs, Paulini introduced new funding for conference travel; expanded town hall meetings and social events; implemented a science communication and professional development series that helped students from all departments hear about careers outside of academia; and developed a professional master’s program in Data Analytics for Science.

“Manfred deeply transformed the physics graduate program,” concluded Dodelson in his nomination letter for Paulini.  “The characteristics of an educational program where students can thrive became an integral part of the Physics Department thanks to his tireless efforts, an effort that he is continuing to work on now college-wide.”