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Baringer propels Honors students in physics

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


Dr. Phil Baringer, Honors Program

Faculty Fellow and associate chair

and professor of physics and astronomy

Every good physicist has to be able to understand how the particles assemble into the whole of matter. Perhaps that is why Philip Baringer has spent decades helping individual Honors students excel in science and find passion for their careers.

Dr. Baringer, an Honors faculty fellow and associate chair and professor of physics and astronomy, has taught Physics 213 Honors, taught multiple Honors seminars, advised Honors students and served on KU’s Goldwater Scholarship nomination committee. This spring, he will lead the University Scholars seminar on the topic of “time.”

“I always want to teach the Honors students because they are so much fun,” he says. “They have this intellectual motivation – they’re typically not just here to get a piece of paper. They’re here to learn something and develop themselves in some way.”

He also teaches a course about science, technology and society – particularly in science fiction – that began as a collaborative Honors Program effort more than 20 years ago and has evolved through the years.  The course is now housed in the Science Fiction Institute of the English Department.

Dr. Baringer has served on the Goldwater Scholarship committee for more than 20 years, to much success: KU has had 56 Goldwater winners since the scholarship was established in 1986, including five in the past two years.

“Every time I read through the applications, I’m just amazed at what undergrads accomplish in just a few years. It is inspiring as a faculty member in the sciences to see what students can do in the way of original research,” he says.

Advising gives him the chance to get to know the students in a more holistic sense, a chance Dr. Baringer takes seriously.

“Honors advisers try to focus less about taking courses in our advising and more about: Are you finding your calling? Are you satisfied that you have done an exploration?” he says.

Dr. Baringer’s research is in experimental particle physics, and he is working on a collaborative international project that includes an experiment at the Large Hadron Collider. That research informs his Honors freshman tutorial about particle physics.

He also runs a summer program for high school students to research particle physics that is funded by the National Science Foundation. Several current Honors students participated in that program prior to coming to KU.

When he is not teaching, advising or researching, Dr. Baringer enjoys reading science fiction and mysteries and watching or reading anything to do with “Doctor Who.”



Course offerings are “among the most comprehensive in the nation,” according to “A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs”
98% of University Honors Program graduates are employed or accepted to graduate school within six months of graduation
40% of students in the University Honors Program conduct research before graduation
9 to 1: Average ratio of KU honors students to faculty advisors
1 of only 7 programs nationwide to receive a top rating from “A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs” in 2014
60% of University Honors Program students study abroad
KU honors students select their advisors from top-ranked KU faculty
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