PULLMAN, Wash. — J. Thomas Dickinson, a Paul A. Anderson professor of physics at Washington State University, has been named the 2003 Marian E. Smith Faculty Achievement Award.
The Smith award is given annually to recognize significant and meritorious achievement in teaching. Recipients also receive a $5,000 cash award.
Dickinson’s students, past and present, praise his teaching abilities and describe his classes as interactive, demanding, and keeping students fully engaged, running on all cylinders. “His enthusiasm about science is infectious because it is in the fervor of his speech, the smile on his face and the glint in his eyes,” one student said.
He was instrumental in getting honors science classes initiated in the College of Sciences, which are well-established equivalents to any in the nation. As the first director of the Center for Materials Research at WSU, he was involved in defining and forming the university’s program in material science. Dickinson introduced and developed an integrated system for questioning and testing to administer and grade online quizzes and tests that involve equations and open-ended questions. He is recognized internationally for his contributions in both laser research and nanotribology. He frequently involves undergraduate students in his research, often leading to publications for these students.
Dickinson is the undergraduate physics adviser at WSU and a relentless recruiter, one faculty member said. “His enthusiasm and energy are very contagious.”
On a daily basis, he distributes “gnews,” to current and former students. Gnews is e-mail-based news releases on fresh-breaking stories in science and technology. Dickinson communicates with more than 200 people on a daily basis, many who are alumni.
The breadth and importance of Dickinson’s research is described in more than 280 articles and book chapters that he authored or co-authored. He has presented hundreds of invited talks on his work in materials physics and chemistry, including 15 Gordon Research Conference presentations. He has chaired five Topical Symposia and twice chaired Gordon conferences. He has co-chaired Conferences on Laser Ablation and has guest lectured/instructed in Japan, Germany and Austria. Dickinson was chosen Fellow of the American Vacuum Society, the premier society for surface science research and Fellow of the American Physical Society.
For more than 30 years, he has been continuously funded in applied surface science and currently has two major Department of Energy grants, one grant from the National Science Foundation and two teaching-related grants.
A member of the WSU faculty since 1968, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University and a master’s and doctorate degree from the University of Michigan.