John H. Simonetti, associate professor of physics in the College of Science at Virginia Tech, received the university's 2009 William E. Wine Award.

Established to honor the former rector of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors and president of the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, the William E. Wine Award is presented annually to three Virginia Tech faculty members with a history of university teaching excellence. Nominations by students, alumni, and faculty in each college are reviewed by selection committees. Each college’s' candidates are reviewed by a university-wide committee, which then chooses the winners. Winners are awarded $2,000 and are inducted into the university’s Academy of Teaching Excellence.

“John excels in three distinct dimensions [of teaching]” said Beate Schmittmann, professor and chair of the Department of Physics. “First, he is an outstanding teaching and mentor, creating a profound and long-lasting impact on his students. Second, he has played an absolutely critical role in establishing and directing the astronomy program. And third, John serves as a mentor to physics faculty and instructors in all teaching matters.”

Since 2002, the year astronomy because a full minor, enrollment in the minor program has nearly tripled, and enrollment in the two-semester Introductory Astrophysics course has grown from approximately 100 to 200 students over the same period. And from 2004 to 2008, Simonetti was the only astronomer in the department to teach all the courses.

Beginning last fall, Simonetti began a “Teaching Brown Bag Lunch” program for physics faculty to encourage them to share best practices, provide supportive feedback and emphasize the importance of effective teaching and learning, especially at the introductory level

Seth Hornstein, senior instructor in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Science at the University of Colorado and Virginia Tech graduate noted that Simonetti was one of the most influential professors he had ever had. “His teaching style was very engaging and his attitude often encouraged questions. His courses were undoubtedly the most enjoyable courses I had at Virginia Tech and his devotion to teaching was unlike any I had previously experienced in my education. To this day he remains as one of the best professors I have ever had and an ideal that I try to model in my own teaching.”

Simonetti received his bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and a master’s degree and Ph.D. from Cornell University.”

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