We welcome Physics Professor David Gerdes as the new Chair of the Department of Physics. His appointment by LSA Interim Dean Elizabeth Cole became effective Jan. 1, 2019. Professor Gerdes is the 16th Chair (previously known as the Director of the Physical Laboratory) to serve the department since U-M offered its first physics course in 1843. He succeeds Professor Brad Orr, who had served as Chair since 2009.
“I’m excited and grateful for the opportunity to serve in this new capacity,” he said. “Our outstanding faculty and students are leading the way in some of the most exciting areas of physics today, from novel quantum states of matter, to the intersection of physics with biology, to gravitational waves and the frontiers of cosmology. I’m looking forward to making this great department even better, a place where everyone is welcome and supported in reaching their scientific and educational goals.”
Professor Gerdes received his B.A. in Physics from Carleton College and Master of Advanced Study in Mathematics from Cambridge University, England. After receiving his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Chicago, he came to the University of Michigan Department of Physics in 1992 as a Research Assistant, where he was part of the experimental team that discovered the top quark. He joined the Physics faculty in 1998. He also holds an appointment in the Department of Astronomy.
A gifted educator, Professor Gerdes has received numerous University of Michigan teaching awards including the Provost’s Teaching Innovation Prize; the Arthur F. Thurnau Professorship in 2007 for “outstanding contributions to undergraduate education”; the University Undergraduate Teaching Award; and the LSA Excellence in Education Award, to name a few. Professor Gerdes served as the Physics Department’s Associate Chair for Undergraduate Education from 2016-19.
His career highlights include a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation, and an Outstanding Junior Investigator award from the Department of Energy. His is a Fellow of the American Physical Society. Six graduate students have earned their Ph.D.’s under his supervision, and he has mentored dozens of undergraduates in their research.
Along with his duties as Chair, Professor Gerdes conducts research in the area of experimental astrophysics. His most recent research, funded by the National Science Foundation and NASA, involves the study of the Solar System beyond Neptune. He and his group have discovered dozens of new trans-Neptunian minor planets, including a Michigan-sized dwarf planet nearly 100 times earth’s distance from the sun.