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2011-12 President’s Scholar: Michael Kaufman

2011-12 President’s Scholar: Michael Kaufman

2011-12 President’s Scholar: Michael Kaufman (photo by Christina Olivas)

By Amanda Holst, Public Affairs Assistant

The President’s Scholar Award recognizes a faculty member who has achieved widespread recognition based on the quality of scholarship, performances or creative activities.

Michael Kaufman, professor and chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, said his greatest passion comes from working to create new knowledge and that he loves to reflect back on the progress that has been made in his field. His desire for discovery and commitment to teaching and learning has earned him the 2011-2012 President’s Scholar Award.

“Many in the campus community, no doubt, know Dr. Kaufman’s teaching and service abilities through his involvement in the Academic Senate and as an exceptional teacher,” said one nominator.

But Kaufman has been equally prolific in research. His contributions include over 30 peer-reviewed journal articles and his theoretical studies have been cited over 300 times. His most notable work includes two studies on the interaction between newly formed stars and their natal clouds. As the result of his theoretical modeling work, he has helped international astronomers discover carbon atoms in one of the most distant galaxies and oxygen molecules in the Orion Nebula.

He also reviews textbooks, arbitrates journal articles and speaks at international conferences. Kaufman’s work is supported by more than $1.5 million in grants, a portion of which has funded the annual Research Experience for Undergraduates program, providing underrepresented minority students valuable research opportunities.

Kaufman’s work has been recognized nationally and his published articles are “of great utility to members of the astronomical community,” according to a nominator.  He said that he stays current in his field by attending conferences, collaborating with colleagues at NASA and other universities, writing proposals, teaching in his area of expertise, and working with students who have the ability to “look at subjects with fresh eyes and new skills.”

“We aren’t just teaching from the book. We’re teaching our areas of expertise,” said Kaufman. “This leads to a richer classroom experience, as well as numerous research opportunities for our students.”

Kaufman earned a bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College and master’s and doctoral degrees from The Johns Hopkins University.