Dr. Gavin Buffington wins faculty innovation award

Dr. Gavin Buffington, assistant professor of physics, has been named by a faculty recognition committee as the recipient of the Outstanding Teaching Innovation Award for his performance in Fort Hays State University's College of Arts and Sciences.

The faculty recognition program rewards outstanding teacher innovators and outstanding mediated classroom teachers from each of the four colleges of the university. Two other special awards � Teacher/Scholar/Innovator of the Year and Faculty Advisor of the Year � are also part of the program. Recipients are selected by a committee chaired or appointed by the respective college deans.

One award is given each month over the period August through May. Buffington is the recipient of the Outstanding Teaching Innovation Award for December. He received a check for $300 and a university lapel pin that signifies teaching excellence. The university provides two-thirds of the financial award and the other third comes from Commerce Bank of Hays, which established a fund with the university to help recognize outstanding faculty teaching.

Buffington has established a reputation for creating opportunities for undergraduate students to apply in a research setting what they learn in traditional coursework. This allows students to synthesize their knowledge and apply it to a specific open-ended problem and requires students to refine their experimental technique, apply advanced theoretical and computational methods, as well as practice their communication skills through formal papers and presentations.

"The idea is simple and straightforward," Buffington explained. "The implementation of this idea requires considerable skill and innovation. All of these projects require the application of skills learned in classes as well as the development and synthesis of new ideas. Students have emerged from these projects with enthusiasm and appreciation for coursework and original thinking."

Buffington holds bachelor and master of science degrees in physics from Pittsburg State University and a doctor of philosophy degree in physics from the University of Missouri-Rolla. He was the L. Russell Kelce Planetarium Operator at Pitt State, and he has published in the Bulletin of the American Physical Society. Dr. Buffington joined the FHSU faculty in 1997.

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