10/22/2015 Peter Durantine

Adkins Honored With One of Physics' Most Esteemed Awards

In more than three decades teaching and researching the field of physics at Franklin & Marshall College, Greg Adkins has cherished the mentoring of students and the special relationships and collaborative efforts that result from that teamwork.

"It's a balance — teaching and research — and that's kind of the special nature of a place like Franklin & Marshall," said Adkins, the William G. and Elizabeth R. Simeral Professor of Physics. "The students have been an essential part of my research."

For his work in the classroom and laboratory, Adkins has been awarded one of the most prestigious honors given in physics, the 2016 American Physical Society Prize for a Faculty Member for Research in an Undergraduate Institution. He is to receive the award at the society's April meeting in Salt Lake City.

  • "It's a balance — teaching and research — and that's kind of the special nature of a place like Franklin & Marshall," said Adkins, the William G. and Elizabeth R. Simeral Professor of Physics. "The students have been an essential part of my research." "It's a balance — teaching and research — and that's kind of the special nature of a place like Franklin & Marshall," said Adkins, the William G. and Elizabeth R. Simeral Professor of Physics. "The students have been an essential part of my research." Image Credit: Melissa Hess

"Recognition of Greg's long-standing research work with students in the department is a significant honor," said Fronefield Crawford, associate professor of astronomy and chair of the Physics & Astronomy Department. "He stands with a very distinguished list of past recipients of the prize."

In 1998, Adkins was recognized for “his numerous contributions to the theory of hyperfine splitting and decay rate of positronium,” and became a Fellow of the American Physical Society.  One of his articles from 1983 has at last count 1643 citations and for several years occupied the SPIRES list of all-time highest-cited papers in high-energy physics.  Google Scholar has tabulated more than 4,400 total citations of his work.

Twenty-three of Adkins' 58 published works contain the names of 21 different undergraduate students as co-authors, three of whom are physics professors — at the University of Leiden, Cal State University Northridge, and Francis Marion University, said Associate Professor of Astronomy Andrea Lommen, who nominated Adkins for the prize.

Former students are on the physics faculties of Kutztown University and Hanford Community College, while five are in graduate school at MIT, Penn State University, the University of Delaware, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and Washington University in St. Louis.  Others have gone on to careers in fields such as engineering, industrial physics, medicine, law, education, programming, finance, entrepreneurship, and as a professor of Religious Studies.  Adkins’ latest research article, co-authored by two undergraduate students, is pending.

In 2000, Adkins received F&M's highest award for research, the Bradley R. Dewey Award for Outstanding Scholarship, and in 2012, he received the College's highest award for teaching, the Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award. Adkins is one of only eight faculty members in the College's history to have won both awards.

"He mentors in a quiet, humble way that sometimes goes undetected by the very people he is influencing," Lommen said. "This gentleness is what empowers and inspires his students to go on to achieve great things in their chosen fields.  I have learned a great deal about effective mentorship by watching him."

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