Vice Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence

Caution: do not attempt this demonstration at home. This photograph was taken in the School's microgravity chamber, 1/4/02.

Joe Wolfe was awarded one of the Vice Chancellor’s Awards for Teaching Excellence, joining fellow School members John Smith and Michael Gal who have won similar awards in the past. Joe was nominated by students from Petroleum Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering and Computer Science and Engineering. All mentioned his enthusiasm for teaching, but also his extensive use of memorable demonstrations to bring physics alive in the class room. Most memorable seem to be those in which the lecturer’s life appears to be in danger: in the picture (right), mechanical engineering students learn about stress concentration and distribution. Students also mentioned experiments conducted in lectures and pocket-sized optics kits, which they then took home to investigate physical optics. The mechanical engineers also cited some edible demonstrations:

“What better way is there to demonstrate the formation of amorphous solids than by making ice-cream with liquid nitrogen?”

“By supplying the entire lecture group with vanilla slice, together with strict instructions to play with our food before eating it, he managed to etch the concepts of Poisson’s ratio, stress, strain and rigidity into our minds for ever”.

Joe is a prolific author of educational web sites. These cover topics as diverse as the uncertainty principle, the physics of sailing, relativity, AC circuit theory, as well as many on topics related to his research area in acoustics (see Joe Wolfe: educational pages for a partial list).

Graduate students the world over know him because of “How to write a PhD thesis”, which is always one of the School’s most visited web pages. High school students know him as the “Joe” who answers their questions on the physics bulletin board and the author of the high school physics FAQ



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