CU Professor Carl Wieman Receives Highest Honor Given By American Association Of Physics Teachers

November 29, 2006

Distinguished Professor Carl Wieman of the University of Colorado at Boulder is the winner of the 2007 Oersted Medal, the highest honor given by the American Association of Physics Teachers.

The award, which recognizes "notable contributions to the teaching of physics," has been given since 1936. Previous recipients include Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, Hans Bethe and Freeman Dyson.

Wieman, who shared the 2001 Nobel Prize in physics and was named the 2004 U.S. Professor of the Year for all doctoral and research universities by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, will receive the Oersted Medal on Jan. 10 at the AAPT winter meeting in Seattle. It includes a $10,000 award.

"It is very gratifying to have my efforts to improve physics education be recognized in this way," Wieman said. "However, this would never have happened without the outstanding work of my collaborators at the University of Colorado, particularly Kathy Perkins and Wendy Adams, as well as the larger community of physics education researchers outside CU whose results guide my understanding and efforts."

Dick Peterson, chair of the AAPT Awards Committee, said "Carl stands tall in the tradition of those at the very pinnacle of physics achievement who have become deeply involved with the teaching of physics at all levels, while also reaching out to motivate the next generation of physicists."

The title of Wieman's Oersted Award Lecture is "Interactive Simulations for Teaching Physics: What Works, What Doesn't, and Why." AAPT President Ken Heller said, "Carl not only recognizes the difficulties of teaching introductory physics at the university level, he has done something about it."

Wieman is a distinguished professor of physics, Presidential Teaching Scholar and a fellow of JILA at CU-Boulder. He is a 2001 recipient of the National Science Foundation's Distinguished Teaching Scholar Award, is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and chairs the academy's Board on Science Education.

He has worked on a variety of research and innovations in teaching physics to a broad range of students, including the Physics Education Technology Project (on the Web at that creates educational online interactive simulations. He has won numerous awards for his teaching, including another of the AAPT's highest honors, the Richtmyer Memorial Award, presented to him in 1996.

The AAPT is the leading organization for physics educators with more than 10,000 members worldwide. It was founded in 1930 and is headquartered in the American Center for Physics in College Park, Md.

The Oersted Medal is named for Hans Christian Oersted (1777-1851), a Danish physicist and chemist who is best known for discovering the relationship between electricity and magnetism known as electromagnetism. The award was established by AAPT in 1936 and is given annually. A complete list of winners can be found at

JILA is a joint institute of CU-Boulder and the National Institute of Standards and Technology located on the CU-Boulder campus. The physics department is part of the CU-Boulder College of Arts and Sciences.