Carnegie Mellon University
May 31, 2023

Markus Deserno Receives Julius Ashkin Award

By Kirsten Heuring

Jocelyn Duffy
  • Associate Dean for Communications, MCS
  • 412-268-9982

Professor of Physics Markus Deserno says physics should be for everyone.

"Physics is very often at the core of a whole bunch of really important world issues," Deserno said. "It's impactful, and it matters for a wide variety of people."

Since his arrival at Carnegie Mellon University in 2007, Deserno has worked hard to make students as passionate about physics as he is, whether they are non-majors, undergraduates or graduate students. He has taught a wide range of courses including Thermal Physics I, Thermal Physics II, Statistical Physics and Physics for Future Presidents.

Deserno brought Physics for Future Presidents to Carnegie Mellon after being inspired by Professor Richard Muller, who spearheaded the course at the University of California, Berkley. Deserno said physics is central to many political contexts. His students agree.

"Professor Deserno is easily one of my favorite professors I've had so far at Carnegie Mellon," one student said. "In taking his class Physics for Future Presidents, he kept me engaged and focused on the content of the course throughout the entire class. With the constant tie-ins to real-world technology and natural events, I do feel that taking his course has improved my general knowledge and made me feel more aware in my day-to-day life."

Along with introducing physics to non-majors, Deserno has deepened physics majors' knowledge of the subject.

"Professor Deserno is an astounding professor and is truly passionate about teaching," another student said. "I was fortunate enough to take Thermal Physics II from him, which has been by far my favorite class taking at CMU. Despite the incredibly difficult and advanced material, Professor Deserno was able to keep the lectures clear, accessible and incredibly engaging."

Because of his dedication to his students, Deserno was awarded the Julius Ashkin Award at the Mellon College of Science Annual Meeting on May 30. The award is given yearly to a faculty member who has shown outstanding devotion and effectiveness in teaching undergraduate students.

Deserno said he was particularly proud of this award and what it means for his work as a professor.

"My students should know that I deeply care about teaching," Deserno said. "I want to get it right."

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