Carnegie Mellon University
April 28, 2022

David Anderson Wins University Teaching Award

By Kelly Saavedra

Jocelyn Duffy
  • Associate Dean for Communications, MCS
  • 412-268-9928

Associate Teaching Professor of Physics David Anderson received Carnegie Mellon University's 2022 William H. and Frances S. Ryan Award for Meritorious Teaching. He was honored at the annual Celebration of Education on April 28. 

Anderson teaches introductory physics to non-physics majors, and he has made learning this intimidating subject both enjoyable and rewarding for students, according to their faculty course evaluations.

His nominators say he “pours his heart and soul into preparation for his classes” and has shown himself to be knowledgeable, engaging and respectful, confident in his delivery, occasionally and appropriately humorous, and always energetic, bringing historical perspective to his discussions of physics and providing useful applications to get his students to think more deeply about the material.

Colleague Barry Luokkala said he is one of the most outstanding teachers with whom he has had the pleasure to work in all his 35 years of experience at Carnegie Mellon. Fellow Ryan Award winner Helmut Vogel considers him “an enormously valuable asset to the Physics Department, to the college and to the university.”

When he is not teaching, Anderson works on a number of committees, including the CMU Academic Review Board and the Physics Department’s Undergraduate Curriculum Committee, which is focused on keeping Carnegie Mellon’s physics courses up to date and making sure students are as well prepared as possible for whatever is the next phase in their life, whether that’s graduate school, or industry, or applying their physics skills to data science, finance or some other field of their choosing.

He leads the annual teaching techniques workshops, a three-day series of training sessions for incoming physics graduate students at Carnegie Mellon. Faculty members often sit in on these sessions to try to capture some of Anderson’s magic, an example of how his teaching extends far beyond the hundreds of students he interacts with annually.

Anderson received his bachelor’s degree in theoretical physics from the University of Essex (UK). He then moved to York to study Condensed Matter Physics under Professor Mohamed Babiker, focusing on the theory of electron-phonon interactions in low-dimensional materials. He received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of York. After working a temporary appointment at the York Structural Biology Laboratory examining the structure of proteins, he moved to the U.S. to teach at Deep Springs College in Inyo County, California. He lived briefly in Baltimore before moving to South Carolina to teach at Francis Marion University for three years. He has also taught in short-term positions at Duquesne University, the Pennsylvania Governor’s School and Sichuan University in China.

“Anderson is the quintessential teacher, dedicated to his students and his subject, hardworking and someone who loves his work,” his nominators wrote. “He has succeeded in bringing introductory physics to reticent students in a way that they truly appreciate and leverage for their future success.”