(MURFREESBORO) As the new academic year begins, 15 professors have been recognized for their achievements at Middle Tennessee State University. MTSU's 108th academic year began Monday, Aug. 26, 2019 with the first day of fall 2019 classes.
MTSU physics professor William M. Robertson honored with the university's highest faculty honor for his teaching, research and service to students, said his colleagues are equally responsible for his accomplishments.
"Getting an award for a career that has brought me such joy seems almost a little embarrassing, but don't let that notion in any way diminish the enormous gratitude I feel, both for the award itself and for all the folks who helped make my career possible," Robertson, the 2019 recipient of the MTSU Foundation's Career Achievement Award, said during the university's Fall Faculty Meeting in Tucker Theatre.
"At the end of my very first year as a professor here, I reflected on the fact that I'd worked harder than I'd ever worked in industry or at national labs and I'd taken a 40 percent pay cut to do so, but I also realized that this was the best move that I'd ever made, and I've had that same thought every year since."
Robertson, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at MTSU since 1995, is internationally recognized for his collaborations with undergraduate students on fast acoustic and electric pulse tunneling and his patents for optical sensors and acoustic lenses.
Charged with encouraging more undergrad research for physics majors and helping to draw more non-majors into the department, Robertson used his experience to develop a physics research program with undergraduate students as key participants. Then, despite having no background in acoustics or music, Robertson developed a course in the physics of popular music specifically to attract non-majors.
Combining his interests led Robertson to split his research between optics and acoustics and obtain external grants, including funding from the National Science Foundation, to support it and the undergrad efforts. He also developed and served as interim director for MTSU's Computational Science Ph.D. Program.
After thanking his wife, teacher and consultant Sharon Felton, and the former MTSU department head who hired him, Robert Carlton, Robertson praised his departmental colleagues for their willingness to help him, and each other, to support their interests and serve students.
"The atmosphere goes far beyond mere collegiality," Robertson said. "Department faculty have agreed to take on heavier loads, cover classes, accept awkward schedules, in order to give relief, particularly to those of us trying to pursue research, and I benefited from that level of sacrifice from my colleagues and I've benefited also from their friendship, advice and support.
"I could not have achieved what I've done in my career without their help, so in a very real way, my success is their success."
Robertson, who studied in India, Australia and England, earned his Bachelor of Science in physics from London's Imperial College and his master's and doctoral degrees from Purdue University in Indiana. He also served as a post-doctoral researcher, first at the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois and then at IBM's T. J. Watson Research Center in New York, and a research officer at National Research Council Canada before accepting his MTSU position.
His current research and development at MTSU includes acoustic and photonic band gap materials, acoustic metamaterials, fast and slow wave phenomena, surface electromagnetic excitations including surface plasmons and surface waves on photonic crystals, label-free biosensing, signal processing of speech and musical sound manipulation, and the design of innovative diffractive optics.
MTSU Foundation President Ron Nichols presented Robertson with his award during the annual gathering, which recognizes, celebrates and rewards university faculty members for their accomplishments in and outside the classroom.
Nichols (B.S. '70) also honored 14 more MTSU professors for their achievements during the event.
The five recipients of the foundation's 2019 Outstanding Teaching Award are:
- Mary Beth Asbury, Department of Communication Studies.
- Vishwas Bedekar, Department of Engineering Technology.
- Christina Cobb, Department of University Studies.
- Kate Pantelides, Department of English.
- Andrew Polk, Department of History.
The nine additional foundation award recipients for 2019 are:
- Outstanding General Education Award -- Aliou Ly, Department of History.
- Outstanding Achievement in Instructional Technology Awards -- Andrew Fialka, Department of History; Ryan Korstange, Department of University Studies; and Joan McRae, Department of World Languages, Literatures and Cultures.
- Outstanding Public Service Awards -- Cynthia Allen, Department of Environmental Health and Safety; Diane Edmondson, Department of Marketing; and Carroll Van West, Center for Historic Preservation and Department of History.
- Distinguished Research Award -- Song Cui, School of Agriculture.
- Special Projects Award -- Tom Neff, Department of Media Arts.
The university also recognized 12 new faculty emeriti, a new associate provost emerita and 77 newly promoted and/or tenured faculty members across campus.
Group Photo ID: (L-R, seated first) history professor Andrew Polk, Outstanding Teaching Award; Cynthia Allen of the Department of Environmental Health and Safety, Outstanding Public Service Award; English professor Kate Pantelides, Outstanding Teaching Award; physics professor William Robertson, Career Achievement Award; marketing professor Diane Edmondson, Outstanding Public Service Award; French language professor Joan McRae, Outstanding Achievement in Instructional Technology Award; mathematics professor Christina Cobb, Outstanding Teaching Award. Standing from left are history professors Aliou Ly, Outstanding General Education Award, and Andrew Fialka, Outstanding Achievement in Instructional Technology Award; Department of University Studies professor Ryan Korstange, Outstanding Achievement in Instructional Technology Award; media arts professor Tom Neff, Special Projects Award; MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, University Provost Mark Byrnes and MTSU Foundation President Ron Nichols; communication studies professor Mary Beth Asbury, Outstanding Teaching Award; agriculture professor Song Cui, Distinguished Research Award; and engineering technology professor Vishwas Bedekar, Outstanding Teaching Award. Not pictured is history professor Carroll Van West, director of the MTSU Center for Historic Preservation, who received an Outstanding Public Service Award. (both photos by MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)