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2012 F&M Graduate Receives Prestigious Physics Award

  • Ted Yoder '12
  • F&M alumnus Ted Yoder '12 has received the 2012 LeRoy Apker Award for excellence in undergraduate physics research. (Photo by Tim Brixius)

Six months after graduating from Franklin & Marshall College, Ted Yoder '12 continues to earn honors for his highly successful undergraduate career.

Yoder, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is a 2012 winner of the LeRoy Apker Award, an honor presented annually by the American Physical Society to recognize excellence in undergraduate physics research. The award is offered to two undergraduates each year: one from a Ph.D.-granting institution and one from a non-Ph.D.-granting institution. Yoder will receive the honor along with Princeton University's Yuliya Dovzhenko at the APS meeting in April 2013 in Denver, where they will deliver presentations on their undergraduate work.

The Apker Award -- named for LeRoy Apker, an award-winning experimental physicist in the mid-20th century -- is the latest in a line of undergraduate honors for Yoder. The Lancaster native previously earned the highly competitive Goldwater Scholarship, a national award for students preparing for careers in mathematics, the natural sciences or engineering. He later won a competition sponsored by the Mathematical Association of America for a paper he wrote on the Riemann Hypothesis, a famous unsolved problem in mathematics. In May, Yoder graduated at the top of F&M's Class of 2012.

Yoder was one of seven finalists who traveled in August to Washington, D.C., to be interviewed by the Apker Award selection committee.

"Winning the Apker Award was a great way to end my undergraduate career," said Yoder, a physics and mathematics double major at F&M. "It was exciting but a little surprising as well. I had a chance to meet the other finalists in Washington and was impressed by their projects. I thought I learned a lot at F&M, both in classes and through research, and it's nice that others agreed."

Gregory Adkins, F&M's William G. and Elizabeth R. Simeral Professor of Physics, nominated Yoder for the Apker Award. Adkins and Yoder worked together on several research projects over the past few years, including a paper that landed on the cover of the August 2011 American Journal of Physics.

"Ted is a truly exceptional student and researcher," Adkins said. "He is equivalent to the best I have seen during the 27 years I have been at Franklin & Marshall College. He has top academic qualifications and has been very successful with a variety of research projects."

Yoder said he enjoyed the opportunity to conduct research with faculty members at F&M. He worked closely with Adkins and Assistant Professor of Physics Scott Lacey through the Hackman Scholars program, a summer initiative in which students conduct challenging, high-level projects in direct collaboration with professors. He also found time to assist Associate Professor of Biology Dan Ardia in exploring the growth of bird chicks using a computer software program.

Yoder said his research experience at F&M is already benefiting him in his doctoral program at MIT. He is part of a research group led by Isaac Chung, professor of physics and 
professor of electrical engineering and computer science.

"Research is naturally a much stronger focus in graduate school, so it's great that I had the chance to gain research experience at F&M," Yoder said. "That experience allows more independence in grad school, not having to seek out your adviser or senior [classmates] for guidance."

Yoder's award is only the latest national honor for F&M students. Over the past year, F&M students and alumni have won the George J. Mitchell Scholarship (Mona Lotfipour '12), Fulbright Scholarship (Will Hancock-Cerutti '12), Harry S. Truman Scholarship (Akbar Hossain '13) and Pickering Fellowship (Melissa Sandoval '13 and Maribel Vasquez '09).