Feller honored with prestigious Worth Seagondollar Physics Award

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Feller honored with prestigious Worth Seagondollar Physics Award


Rod Pritchard, Director of Marketing and Public Relations Instructor at Coe College, Cedar Rapids, IA

Previous recipient Karen Williams (right), East Central University (OK), presents Steve Feller, Coe College (IA), with the Sigma Pi Sigma Worth Seagondollar Award. Photo by Ken Cole.

Steve Feller, the B.D. Silliman Professor of Physics at Coe College, was recently presented with the prestigious Sigma Pi Sigma Worth Seagondollar Award at the 2012 Quadrennial Physics Congress, held in Orlando, FL. Presented only once every four years, the award recognizes extraordinary levels of service and commitment to Sigma Pi Sigma – the National Honor Society in Physics – as well as the Society of Physics Students (SPS).
During the award presentation, the citation noted that Feller:

has been both an exemplary researcher in the area of glass physics and an extraordinary mentor of young scientists at Coe College, directing both his own research group as well as the college Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, and has been an inspirational leader for its Society of Physics (SPS) Chapter, recognized as the Outstanding Chapter Advisor nationally in 2000, serving two terms as SPS Zone 11 Councilor, providing leadership for SPS’s program to study the effectiveness of the Undergraduate Research Experience in Physics, serving two terms as Sigma Pi Sigma President, and having led the planning for both the 2008 and 2012 Sigma Pi Sigma Congresses, to great acclaim. In every way, he has served the Physics Community, Sigma Pi Sigma, and the Society of Physics Students with distinction.

Professor Feller earned his Ph.D. at Brown University and has taught at Coe since 1979. His research in physics centers on the atomic structure and physical properties of glass. Working with Coe Physics Professor Mario Affatigato and more than 200 student colleagues, he has published nearly 140 papers in the refereed literature of the field. Also, Feller has edited a number of books on glass science. He and his students have given more than 200 presentations at well over 100 national and international conferences.

Since 1983, Feller and his colleagues have garnered more than $7 million from a large number of foundations, including the National Science Foundation, to support physics research at Coe. He has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including being named as a Fulbright Scholar, a Distinguished Iowa Scientist by the Iowa Academy of Sciences, and the Iowa Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation. He is an active member in several professional associations, including The American Ceramic Society, the American Physical Society and the Society of Glass Technology in the United Kingdom. He is a past national president of Sigma Pi Sigma.

Professor Feller also has a research-level interest in numismatics, the study of the history of money. In this area, he has published over 50 articles, parts of several books, and in 2007 he co-authored (with his daughter, Ray) “Silent Witnesses: Civilian Camp Money of World War II,” now the standard in the field.

About the Award

The Worth Seagondollar Award recognizes levels of service and commitment to Sigma Pi Sigma and the Society of Physics Students. Awardees are determined by unanimous vote of the Executive Committee of the SPS National Council. The award was first presented to its namesake, Worth Seagondollar, North Carolina State University, at the 1996 Congress of Sigma Pi Sigma, held in Atlanta. The quadrennial congresses have served as appropriate venues to make subsequent award presentations, including George Miner, University of Dayton, in 2000; Peggy Dixon (posthumously), Montgomery College, MD., in 2004; Karen Williams, East Central University, OK., in 2008; and most recently, Steve Feller, Coe College in 2012.

Worth Seagondollar was a member of the Manhattan Project, the first scientist to measure the critical mass of plutonium, and was present at the Trinity Test. He was a very successful SPS chapter advisor at both the University of Kansas and North Carolina State University, and was a leading nuclear physicist. As Sigma Pi Sigma president, Seagondollar played a central role in the merger of the American Institute of Physics Student Sections and Sigma Pi Sigma that created the Society of Physics Students. Selected also as a Fellow of the American Physical Society, he was an active member of numerous professional organizations, and is now a professor emeritus at North Carolina State University.

This article originally appeared in the 17 December 2012 issue of The Gazette, and is reprinted with permission.

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