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UC Berkeley Press Release

Two UC Berkeley physicists honored at national physics teachers meeting

– The American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) this week honored two University of California, Berkeley, physics professors for their undergraduate and public teaching.

Eugene Commins
Eugene Commins
Carlos Bustamante
Carlos Bustamante
(Photos courtesy Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)

Eugene Commins, professor emeritus of physics, received the Oersted Medal on Monday, Jan. 10, at the association's annual meeting in Albuquerque, N.M., for his contributions to the advancement of physics teaching. At the same session, Carlos Bustamante, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and UC Berkeley professor of molecular and cell biology, physics and chemistry, received the Richtmyer Award for conveying physics to public audiences.

Commins's research interests have ranged from electrons to astrophysics, and for 15 years he searched for the elusive "electric dipole moment" of the electron. At the award ceremony, Cummins spoke about the people who inspired him to teach and to learn.

Bustamante has worked on new methods of manipulating just one molecule at a time. He is the creator of optical tweezers, which use light to move objects as small as a single atom. A Fulbright scholar from his native Peru, he is now working on the mechanical power of twisted DNA. Bustamante spoke on "An Old Problem with a New Twist" - measuring how much DNA's rigid backbone can twist.

The AAPT is the largest association of physics teachers in the United States. Its most prestigious award, the Oersted Medal, is named after Hans Christian Oersted, a central figure in physics who in the 19th century discovered that electricity and magnetism are related. The award, which comes with a gift of $10,000, honors teachers of physics who contribute through lectures, textbooks, public activity and the like, to physics teaching. The Richtmyer Award, which includes a gift of $7,500, is named after Floyd K. Richtmyer, a distinguished physicist, teacher, and administrator who served the physics community in many ways.


AAPT press release