Harvard professor John Johnson (pictured) is one of two recipients of the Fannie Cox Prize, which recognizes exceptional teaching in introductory science courses. The other winner is Jene Golovchenko, Rumford Professor of Physics and Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics.

Courtesy of John Johnson

Campus & Community

Professors recognized for exceptional teaching in science

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Fannie Cox Prize awarded to Golovchenko and Johnson

Harvard’s Jene Golovchenko, Rumford Professor of Physics and Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics, and John Johnson, professor of astronomy, have been named the 2015 recipients of the Fannie Cox Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching.

Made possible by a generous gift from Gardner Hendrie ’54 and consisting of a $10,000 personal award and $40,000 in unrestricted support for teaching and research, the Fannie Cox Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching recognizes exceptional teaching in introductory science courses. A committee comprised of faculty members from across the sciences, including previous awardees, recommends recipients based on their ability to inspire students, instill in them a passion for science, and effectively communicate complex ideas. Jeremy Bloxham, dean of science and professor of geophysics and computational science, selects the winners.

“Jene Golovchenko and John Johnson inspire their students through interactive, engaging ways of teaching that encourage learning from one another and from hands-on experiences,” said Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith, also the John H. Finley Jr. Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “They are wonderful examples of the innovative teaching that happens every day in Harvard’s classrooms. I hope our colleagues in the faculty will join me in congratulating them for this well-deserved recognition.”

“Inspiring,” “disciplined,” and “transformative” are but a few of the words Jene Golovchenko’s students use to describe him. They particularly praise his interactive teaching style and enthusiasm for his course material. Golovchenko developed the seminar “The Physics and Applied Physics Freshman Research Laboratory” for the specific purpose of putting freshmen into a research setting early on in their careers, and the course has inspired generations of students to pursue a career in the sciences.

“Learning of being awarded the Fannie Cox Prize reminded me of the many undergraduates in my freshman seminar research course whose scientific curiosity and creativity have given me so much joy and confidence in the future,” Golovchenko said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity given me by Harvard to create and teach this course and for the recognition of its goals and accomplishments afforded by the Fannie Cox Prize.”

Johnson’s students admire his inverted classroom model and team-based approach to teaching. His ability to challenge students to learn the material has, by all accounts, transformed and revolutionized the introductory astronomy course “Stellar and Planetary Astronomy.”

“Winning a teaching award is a huge honor, and doing so at an institution as prestigious as Harvard makes me feel especially proud,” Johnson said. “I hope that this award brings attention to innovative teaching methods that incorporate active and peer-based learning into the STEM classroom. My methods are designed to help the students traditionally left in the margins in a lecture-based classroom, and in so doing I’m helping all students learn more effectively.”

Johnson plans to use the research award money for the Harvard Banneker Institute, which is designed as an astronomy graduate school preparatory program for under-represented minority groups. The funds will enable him to continue using a combination of skills development and social justice education to increase the number of students of color in science, technology, engineering, and math.