Professor John W. Belcher
Receives Prestigious Oersted Medal
John W. Belcher, Class of 1922 Professor of Physics and MacVicar Faculty Fellow, has been awarded the 2016 Hans Christian Oersted Medal of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT). The award was given in recognition of Prof. Belcher’s “tireless work with TEAL (Technology Enabled Active Learning) and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).” The Oersted Medal recognizes those who have had an outstanding, broad and lasting impact on the teaching of physics. It is awarded annually by the American Association of Physics Teachers, a non-profit organization founded in 1930 to "enhance the understanding and appreciation of physics through teaching."
TEAL is an active engagement format for teaching introductory physics that is used in 8.01 and 8.02, the mainstream introductory physics courses at MIT. TEAL was funded by the Alex and Brit d’Arbeloff Fund for Excellence in Education and by iCampus. The implementation of this format at MIT, beginning on a large scale in spring 2003, was not without controversy. The often times turbulent history of the TEAL program has been recounted by Dr. Lori Breslow of MIT in an article in Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, “Wrestling with Pedagogical Change: The TEAL Initiative at MIT” (42(5), 23-29, 2010).
Professor Belcher's current research interests concern the interaction of the heliosphere with the local interstellar medium. He was the principal investigator on the Voyager Plasma Science Experiment during the Voyager Neptune Encounter – the end of the Grand Tour. Belcher is now a co-investigator on the Plasma Science Experiment on board the Voyager Interstellar Mission. The Voyager spacecraft are still returning data, 37 years after launch, with a predicted demise in 2031.
Nine members of the MIT Physics Department have now won the Oersted Medal. Other MIT physics department recipients of the Oersted Medal include Mildred S. Dresselhaus (2008), alumnus and Nobel Laureate Carl Wieman (2007), John G. King (2000), Daniel Kleppner (1997), Anthony French (1989), Victor Weisskopf (1976), Francis Friedman (1963), and Jerrold Zacharias (1961).