Medal honors Prof. Harvey Gould’s contributions to physics education

Harvey Gould, Clark University research professor and professor emeritus of physics


The American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) announced on Feb. 22 that   Harvey Gould, Clark University research professor and professor emeritus of Physics, is the 2013 recipient of the Robert A. Millikan Medal in recognition of his notable and creative contributions to the teaching of physics. The Medal will be presented during the AAPT Summer Meeting in Portland, Oregon.

Gould has been a pioneer in computational and statistical physics education. Throughout his career, he has worked to develop collaboration and communication among his colleagues while supporting the common good, making unique and important contributions to the community of physicists and physics educators. Regarding his selection as 2013 Millikan Medal recipient, Gould said, “I have been very lucky to have had a job for many years that I enjoy. I also have been fortunate to have colleagues and collaborators who have made my life both fun and rewarding.” Gould earned his A.B. and Ph.D. in physics at the University of California, Berkeley and did postdoctoral work at the National Bureau of Standards (now NIST). After four years at the University of Michigan, he began teaching at Clark University in 1971. In the early 1980s he made important contributions in the development of computer simulations for undergraduate physics lecture and laboratory courses, and, in particular, developed a laboratory-based course on computer simulation at the undergraduate and graduate levels. For the last three decades he has done research in condensed matter physics, statistical physics, and computational physics. Most recently his research has focused on the dynamics of first-order phase transitions with a particular interest in nucleation, as well as critical slowing down and earthquake fault systems. Gould has shared his knowledge of the use of computers and computer simulations in physics education. In the ’90s he participated in the Consortium for Upper-level Physics Software (CUPS) Project, which led to the publication of “Thermal and Statistical Physics Simulations,” co-authored with Lynna Spornick and Jan Tobochnik. Of particular note are Gould’s undergraduate textbooks, “Introduction to Computer Simulations Methods,” co-authored with Wolfgang Christian and Tobochnik, and “Statistical and Thermal Physics,” co-authored with Tobochnik. Both books have inspired physics teachers throughout the world to incorporate computers and computer simulations in their courses. As co-editor with Tobochnik of the “Computer Simulation” column in Computers in Physics and Computing in Science and Engineering for over ten years, Gould has had a positive impact on many physics teachers. The column and his textbooks have helped many teachers transition to making computation an integral part of their undergraduate physics teaching. He is, in no small measure, responsible for the enormous growth in the use of computers in physics education during the last 25 years. As Associate Editor of the American Journal of Physics for ten years, he edited approximately 1000 articles and played an active and effective role in improving manuscripts to make them more accurate, readable, and understandable. The first Gordon Research Conference on Physics Research and Education, which brings together research scientists, faculty, physics education researchers, and students around a specific topic, was initiated and co-chaired by Gould and Tobochnik. These conferences were followed by the 1999 launch of theme issues of American Journal of Physics that are tied to the Gordon Conferences. “This is a very prestigious award and also highlights Professor Gould’s life-long commitment to teaching,” said Arshad Kudrolli, Jan and Larry Landry University Professor and Chair of Physics at Clark University. About the Award: The Robert A. Millikan Medal, established in 1962, recognizes teachers who have made notable and creative contributions to the teaching of physics. The recipient is asked to make a presentation at the Ceremonial Session of an AAPT Summer Meeting. A monetary award, The Millikan Medal, an award certificate, and travel expenses to the meeting are presented to the recipient. This release, which includes a list of previous awardees, first appeared online at About AAPT: Dedicated to enhancing the understanding and appreciation of physics through teaching, AAPT provides awards, publications, and programs that encourage teaching practical application of physics principles, support continuing professional development, and reward excellence in physics education. AAPT was founded in 1930 and is headquartered in the American Center for Physics in College Park, Maryland. Founded in 1887 in Worcester, Massachusetts, Clark University is a small, liberal arts-based research university addressing social and human imperatives on a global scale. Nationally renowned as a college that changes lives, Clark is emerging as a transformative force in higher education today. LEEP (Liberal Education and Effective Practice) is Clark’s pioneering model of education that combines a robust liberal arts curriculum with life-changing world and workplace experiences. Clark’s faculty and students work across boundaries to develop solutions to contemporary challenges in the areas of psychology, geography, management, urban education, Holocaust and genocide studies, environmental studies, and international development and social change. The Clark educational experience embodies the University’s motto: Challenge convention. Change our world.   Related link: