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Beloit’s Professor Stanley inspires students, receives award for U.S. Physics Team

Paul Stanley, Dobson professor of physics at Beloit College, received the Homer L. Dodge Citation for Distinguished Service from the American Association of Physics Teachers this July.

Stanley has been the academic director for the U.S. Physics Team since 2009. Under his direction, the team has earned 22 gold, 16 silver, two bronze medals, and two special achievement awards at the International Physics Olympiad. The Olympiad is a nine-day international competition for high school students from more than 80 nations. Though countries are divided into teams, students compete on an individual level.

In preparation for the competition, Stanley prepares two nationwide tests given to top high school physics students to find members for the team—one multiple choice and one short answer.

“The high school physics students who like this sort of thing will call it lots of fun,” he says of the short answer exam.

He selects 20 to 24 students based on their test results to go with him to the University of Maryland each May, where they train for two weeks in the university’s physics department before heading to the competition, which changes location every year. He has traveled to India, Spain, and Kazakhstan during his 14 years of coaching.

At a time when there is considerable focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and scholars urge tighter connections between secondary schools and higher education, Professor Stanley is acting and achieving results.