Dordt College News

Dordt professors inducted into physics society

December 18, 2008

Zwart and Allen

Two Dordt professors were recently inducted into the official honor society of the physics profession, Sigma Pi Sigma. This organization recognizes and celebrates distinctive achievement and high scholarship in physics.

Dr. Douglas Allen and Dr. John Zwart, both professors of physics at Dordt, were honored at an induction ceremony held Dec. 13 on the campus of Dordt College.

Participating in the ceremony was Dordt Emeritus Professor of Planetary Sciences Richard Hodgson; and Professor of Computer Science at Dordt, Dennis De Jong. Hodgson was among the charter members elected into Dordt’s Sigma Pi Sigma Chapter when it was established in 1972, and Dennis De Jong was elected into membership one year later.

“I commend Professors Allen and Zwart for this accomplishment—such external societies assist Dordt in getting the word out about our great program. I’m also hopeful that student participation in the society will grow in the coming years,” commented Dordt’s Provost, Erik Hoekstra, who was in attendance at the ceremony.

Dr. Doug Allen earned his Ph.D. at Iowa State University and joined the Dordt College faculty in 2005. He is trained in atmospheric physics, and current research interests include climate change, stratospheric transport and mixing, and solar physics. Before coming to Dordt, Dr. Allen worked in research at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, University of Chicago, and the Naval Research Laboratory.

Dr. John Zwart earned his Ph.D. at Michigan State University and joined the Dordt College faculty in 1983. He is trained in experimental condensed matter physics, and his current research interests include light-scattering studies of polymer structure and physics/science education. Dr. Zwart has served as a NASA Summer Faculty Fellow, a science education consultant, and was the 2004 president of the Iowa chapter of the American Association of Physics Teachers. He is currently the Iowa representative on the national Council of the American Association of Physics Teachers.

With their induction into the Sigma Pi Sigma, Allen and Zwart hope to reinvigorate the Sigma Pi Sigma chapter established at Dordt College 30 years ago. Fifteen faculty and student members were elected between 1972-1978, but none have been elected since that time.

“We would like to start inducting eligible students to Sigma Pi Sigma next spring,” said Dr. Allen. Undergraduate candidates must be in the upper one-third of their class in general scholarship, with a higher minimum average often established for a minimum of three physics courses taken.

Sigma Pi Sigma chapters are restricted to colleges and universities of recognized standing that offer a strong physics major. There are only 11 colleges in Iowa with chapters. Each chapter may receive into membership both students and faculty members who meet organizational standards.

Dordt College currently has an active Society of Physics Students (SPS), with 10 students enrolled. Both the SPS and the Sigma Pi Sigma honor society are under the umbrella of the American Institute of Physics, but the honor society has more stringent admission requirements. As SPS members, students are eligible for scholarships, research, outreach, and travel awards.
Dordt’s current Physics Society members are Jennifer Brown, Orange City, IA; Cam Gagnon, Riverside, CA; Justin Krosschell, Sioux Falls, SD; Monique Lieuwen, Lethbridge, AB; Jon Trueblood, St. Louis, MO; Matt Vande Burgt, Salem, OR; Jenna Vander Woude, Lynden, WA; Jesse Van Essen, Sioux Center; Ryan Van Schubert, Utopia, ON, and Jeremy Westra, Mount Vernon, WA.

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