Physics honor to professor who engaged students in research at Fairfield University

The American Physical Society (APS) has announced that Dr. Nancy Haegel, an associate professor and then professor of physics at Fairfield University for 10 years, has been selected to receive the 2004 Prize To A Faculty Member for Research in an Undergraduate Institution.

Considered one of the highest honors a physicist can receive, the prize was established in 1984 by a grant from the Research Corporation. It honors a physicist "whose research in an undergraduate setting has achieved wide recognition and contributed significantly to physics and who has contributed substantially to the professional development of undergraduate physics students." The award includes $5,000 plus an additional $5,000 unrestricted grant for research to the prize recipient's institution, in this case Fairfield University. The award will be presented at the APS annual meeting in Canada in March.

Dr. Haegel, who left Fairfield in June to pursue her research and teaching at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. is being cited for her important contributions to semiconductor materials and semiconductor device physics, and for the involvement of students in her research. While at Fairfield she raised the level at which undergraduate students conduct research, leading to awards and published papers that are unusual for students at the undergraduate level. Jose Simoes, who graduated from Fairfield in 1998, was a co-author on two major papers and was Fairfield's first recipient of a Goldwater Scholarship for students in science, engineering and mathematics.

For Matt Smylie, another Goldwater recipient who just graduated in May, working with Dr. Haegel led to research funding from Sigma Xi and the opportunity to collaborate with scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley national Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now on a Fulbright Fellowship at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany.

Another of Dr. Haegel's students, Kristen Record, a 1999 graduate, was the first author on the research paper she presented to the American Physical Society Conference. Kristen said that Dr. Haegel "has no personal or professional need to have her name out there, so if a student has legitimately conducted the research, she will put the student's name first."

Now a physics teacher at Bunnell High School in Stratford, Conn., she remembers how her mentor "always had a good way of explaining the simplest thing in physics to the most complicated concept in quantum mechanics." Because of that ability, Kristen said, students would line up outside her door to get into her class.

A member of APS since 1983, Dr. Haegel conducts research on semiconductor materials, with an emphasis on high resistivity semiconductors and materials for far-infrared detection. She and her students were involved in the development and modeling of photoconductors for use on the SIRTF (Space Infrared Telescope Facility) satellite that was just launched by NASA in August.

She received her bachelor of science degree in metallurgical engineering and materials science from the University of Notre Dame and a PhD in materials science from the University of California, Berkeley. She worked as a post-doctoral scientist at Siemens Research Laboratories in Erlangen, Germany and then joined the faculty in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at UCLA in 1987.

Dr. Haegel has been the recipient of a NSF Presidential Young Investigator Award and a David and Lucile Packard Fellowship in Science and Engineering. She has received subsequent fellowships from the Kellogg and Alexander von Humboldt Foundations and grants from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Research Corporation of Tucson, Ariz., and the European Space Agency. In 1989 she was awarded the TRW Excellence in Teaching Award at UCLA and the Teacher of the Year Award at Fairfield University in 1997. She is a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Notre Dame.

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Posted on November 21, 2003

Vol. 36, No. 129