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Honors and Awards

Physicist Clarke Named NC State Winner of BOG Award for Excellence in Teaching

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Laura Clarke, an Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor in the Department of Physics, has been named NC State’s recipient of the 2022 Board of Governors (BOG) Award for Excellence in Teaching.

The BOG established the Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1993 to recognize and encourage outstanding teaching within the UNC system. Each year, one faculty member from each of the University of North Carolina System institutions receives the award.

Clarke has had extensive experience teaching at the introductory level, as well as teaching physics majors. She has focused on introducing additional experiential learning to the physics major curriculum in order to better prepare students for entry into the workplace.

Her goal is for students to graduate with skills such as project management, working in teams and applying technical knowledge to cross-cutting problems. One way she has accomplished this is by developing a senior design capstone course in which students work in self-managed teams to design and build a deliverable apparatus for a sponsor.

“We need to prepare STEM students to not only become technically-adept plastic thinkers but also develop ethics, effective communication approaches, resiliency, multicultural skills and confidence,” Clarke said.

Laura Clarke, Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor in the Department of Physics

She is also committed to supporting underrepresented students.

“My teaching philosophy is to understand who in my classroom, department or discipline is being underserved and build sustainable structural change to support these individuals,” she said.

Clarke’s peers have also commended her ability to engage and challenge her students, while providing the support they need to understand complex concepts.

“Clarke is a research-focused physicist, but her approach to teaching is based firmly in best practices in instruction,” said Zodiac Webster, assistant teaching professor of physics. “She is truly an exemplar of outstanding teaching and is serving as a role model for us in the physics department.”

Clarke’s research interests are in nanoscale physics, with a focus on polymer composite materials. She is using light in novel ways to change polymer properties, with the goal of controlling or facilitating plastic degradation in the environment.

She earned her doctorate degree in physics from the University of Oregon in 1998 and has been a faculty member at the Department of Physics since 2003.

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