UI physics professor named national professor of the year
November 30, 2015
Selen was awarded the national Professor of the Year Award by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.SO
As a professor, Selen places a large focus on his students, and puts forth effort to help them achieve the most they possibly can.
“The students at Illinois are just amazing,” Selen said. “They’re very smart of course, but just the attitudes — the idea that, ‘yes I’m going to study hard, I’m going to work part time, I’m going to volunteer for this student organization’ — doing ten things at once, just because they want to try and make a difference.”
Selen also started the Physics Van, a roving community outreach program that allows students to visit schools with science equipment and demonstrate science concepts to young childrenSO. Selen said he is proud of the program as well as the students who have partaken in it.
“It just shows their commitment to help other people achieve what they’ve been able to achieve by being at the University. A few years ago we had a reunion of the students who had been at the University who had been involved with it over the years,” he said. “It was so heartwarming to see that they’re still the same great people, they still volunteer and do science in their neighborhood, in their own kids’ schools.”
Selen has been able to help past and present students grow and attain their goals. Claire Baum, junior in LAS, was impacted by his ‘can do’ attitude. Baum, who is the president of the Society for Women in Physics, often asks Selen for help when organizing events for her organization.
“No matter what it is, Mats is willing to help,” Baum said. “Even with the recent budget cuts, Mats will tell me not to worry about things like fees or travel costs to take the SWIP members to conferences and that somehow we’ll make it work. I find that extremely supportive.”
Joe Mirabelli, senior in Engineering, said Selen can teach effectively and still engage a very large lecture hall of students.
“Mats was very personable and animated in lectures. For certain difficult problems, he had some interesting anecdotes, and he responded to the questions of students efficiently,” Mirabelli said, “He is very extroverted and friendly, and his knowledge and practice of the content was extremely obvious.”
Mirabelli stated the programs Selen has developed for introductory level physics courses have made a lasting impact at the University.
“The presence of personality that Mats provides through his leadership to the department is bright and positive; education at UIUC is tangibly different because of his contribution,” he said.
Kate Woessner, senior in LAS, said she felt Selen deserved to be named the professor of the year.
“It is so obvious how much he cares about his students,” she said. “He does so much, not only in his classes, but throughout the department, to ensure every opportunity to all his students.”
Baum also expressed why she felt Selen deserved the award and title he was granted.
“From helping create the i>Clicker to leading a research group on physics education, Mats has been one of our physics department superstars,” Baum said. “He does a great job at making the students feel like they are cared for down to the individual level. I feel like he understands that students will go through up and downs both academically and non-academically and he will be there to help in any way possible.”
Selen said he felt that there were many other people at the University who could have won this award just like him.
“The place is full of amazing people. I think that Illinois is a really special place that encourages the kind of behavior this award recognizes,” Selen said. “I just feel extremely fortunate to be where I am and have this thing happen to me.”