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Wick wins Reichert Award

Kurt Wick
Kurt Wick

Senior Scientist, Kurt Wick will receive the American Physical Society 2018 Jonathan F. Reichert and Barbara Wolff-Reichert Award for Excellence in Advanced Laboratory Instruction. Wick has guided the Methods of Experimental Physics courses in the School of Physics and Astronomy for thirty years.

The Methods classes, affectionately known as MXP, are co-taught with a faculty member. Through them Wick has made significant contributions to the School’s advanced laboratory curriculum while also serving as the main point of contact for students in the laboratory.

The MXP courses teach physics majors modern experimental techniques. The first semester of the class focuses on modern electronics and programming. In the second semester, the students form two-person teams, design and create an experiment, and then run it from start to finish. At the end of the semester, they present their results to their peers through talks and a final paper, while sharing the outcome with the entire School in a poster session.

"The Methods of Experimental Physics courses are a cornerstone of our curriculum, and their development over the last thirty years has been shaped by Kurt,” said Professor Paul Crowell. “Based on years of discussions with our former students, there is no doubt that among all courses at Minnesota, MXP has had the biggest impact on their growth as scientists, and they all cite Kurt's role as a mentor in the art of experimental physics."

Former student Jesse Berezovsky, Associate Professor of Physics, Case Western Reserve University said of Wick, “He had both the detailed technical knowledge needed to keep each experiment running, as well as the broader pedagogical view need to shape the course and guide students through it. It is rare to find both qualities in one person.”

Molly Krogstad, who received a PhD at the University of Colorado and is now a research scientist at Honeywell said, “The MXP course gave me valuable experience solving unexpected challenges that arise in research, along with the satisfaction of taking a project from the very start to finish. This experience was crucial in my decision to continue working in experimental physics, and I’m grateful for the time and effort Kurt has spent developing and refining the undergraduate advanced labs at the U of M.”

Sam Kean, science writer, author of The Disappearing Spoon, The Violinist’s Thumb, and The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons said, I really learned how to think like an experimenter. But even more than that, I remember just talking with Kurt - about Goethe, about books, about the role of science in our wider lives. He helped me see the connection between the sciences and the humanities, and I’ll always be grateful for that.”

In addition to his work on MXP itself, Wick has been an active member of the national advanced laboratory community. He has designed and taught workshops for advanced laboratory instructors, focusing on modern tools such as field-programmable gate arrays, which he introduced to MXP along with Professor Jeremy Mans. In this way, educational tools developed at Minnesota are being disseminated to other teaching labs around the country.

The Reichert award recognizes outstanding achievement in teaching, sustaining, and enhancing an advanced undergraduate laboratory course or courses at US institutions. It is sponsored by the American Physical Society. Wick will accept his award at the American Physical Society meeting in Los Angeles in March, 2018.