University of Denver professor receives prestigious Cottrell Scholar Award for science and teaching
Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA), America’s oldest foundation devoted exclusively to science, is honoring Kingshuk Ghosh, assistant professor of physics and astronomy, University of Denver, with a prestigious academic award.
The 100-year-old RCSA has named Ghosh a 2012 Cottrell Scholar, based on his innovative research as well as his passion for teaching, said James M. Gentile, RCSA president and CEO.
Ghosh’s research involves statistical physics, a branch of science that has proven useful to model complex systems such traffic flow, stock market behavior as well as various biological processes. Ghosh’s own research spans various branches of science including chemistry, mathematics, physics and non-traditional areas such as modeling traffic flows. University officials say he was hired in 2008 to expand research capabilities in biophysics and theoretical physics. He is the director of DU’s newly formed program in molecular and cellular biophysics.
As an early-career teacher, Ghosh has received high praise from DU physics and astronomy majors, who acknowledge his commitment to teaching, willingness to help beyond regular class and office hours and his ability to explain the most complex material and concepts in simple terms. DU officials note these same students generally describe his class to be one of the most challenging they have taken so far.
Ghosh received the Cottrell Scholar Award (CSA) based on his peer-reviewed proposal that included both research and teaching projects.
Ghosh’s CSA research project involves developing a new theoretical approach to model what are called “dynamical fluctuations in small-number systems.” In Ghosh’s research, the term refers to the changing physical forces at play in such things as genetic switches, the molecules that turn various segments of DNA in cells on and off. It is part of his ongoing work to understand the way heat and motion play out when protein molecules fold or misfold – folding is the process by which proteins perform their functions within the cell.
Meanwhile, Ghosh’s CSA education project is focused on creating two multidisciplinary classes – an introductory seminar for freshmen, and a biophysics class for advanced undergraduates. The multidisciplinary aspect of these classes is important because today’s scientists are increasing asked to address complex problems that often cross traditional fields of study. Ghosh said his seminar will offer a non-traditional approach employing quantitative reasoning to model complex systems. Students will be asked to solve problems in economics, weather forecasting as well as biology and physics.
“It promises to offer something for everyone, both science and non-science majors,” he said.
The Cottrell Scholar Awards (CSA), instituted in 1994, are named in honor of Frederick Gardner Cottrell, scientist, inventor and philanthropist. Dr. Cottrell founded what is now RCSA in 1912 to provide support for scientific research and experimentation at scholarly institutions. He not only contributed fundamentally and practically to scientific knowledge, but he dedicated his career to enlisting science in the service of society.
The CSA program owes its origins to RCSA’s concern with the apparent separation of teaching and research in Ph.D. institutions.
“Rather than being communities of university-scholars, universities are often perceived as collections of specialists,” RCSA’s Gentile said. “We seek to reinforce the growing awareness that these two functions are complementary rather than wholly or partially exclusive.”
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About Research Corporation for Science Advancement – Research Corporation for Science Advancement (www.rescorp.org) – formerly known as Research Corporation – was founded in 1912 and is the second-oldest foundation in the United States (after the Carnegie Corporation) and the oldest foundation devoted wholly to science. Research Corporation is a leading advocate for the sciences and a major funder of scientific innovation and of research in America’s colleges and universities. Follow updates from RCSA on Facebook and Twitter.