Posted 7:30 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020

UWL Physics Professor Shelly Lesher has been named an American Physical Society 2020 Fellow. National colleagues are recognizing her for “advocating on behalf of the essential role of physics in society, and for demonstrating the importance of physics education for all students.”

UWL’s Shelly Lesher named American Physical Society Fellow

A UW-La Crosse physics professor is being recognized by her American Physical Society peers.

The society has elected Shelly Lesher a 2020 Fellow. Her national colleagues are recognizing Lesher for “advocating on behalf of the essential role of physics in society, and for demonstrating the importance of physics education for all students.”

“It’s a great feeling knowing that my peers think I’m impacting physics through the work I’m doing at UWL,” says Lesher, who has taught at UWL for 10 years.

Along with teaching core physics to science majors, Lesher says it’s important to promote how physics not only impacts science, but also the world in general. She was selected as a Yale University Presidential Fellow during the 2019-20 academic year for establishing a unique course on the impact nuclear science has had on society and her nuclear physics research program.

“It’s important to bring that human side back to science,” she notes.

Lesher says she’s energized by the combined teaching and research opportunities that UWL offers. She appreciates the personal interaction with students, especially conducting research with undergraduate students — something that’s normally saved for graduate work.

And she likes teaching courses with freshmen who may have not taken a physics class before and are exploring new opportunities.

“You can have a direct impact on a student’s life,” she notes. “That’s what is special about UWL.” 

UWL Professor Taviare Hawkins, Physics Department Chair, says she is privileged to have Lesher in the department.

UWL Professor Taviare Hawkins, Physics Department Chair

“It is quite prestigious for our department to have a member named as an APS Fellow and an even rarer distinction for a physicist at a primarily teaching institution to receive this honor,” says Hawkins. “Dr. Lesher's hard work to educate the community on all aspects of nuclear physics has finally paid off! It is my honor to have her as a colleague.”

The APS Fellowship Program recognizes members who have made exceptional contributions to the physics enterprise in physics research, important applications of physics, leadership in or service to physics, or significant contributions to physics education. The society’s archive lists fellows since the start of the program in 1921.

Each year, no more than one half of one percent of the Society membership is recognized by their peers for election to the status of Fellow in the American Physical Society. This year, 163 Fellows were selected and recognized for their contributions to science.

Lesher is the first UWL Physics Department member named a national fellow. She’s also the first faculty member from a UW System comprehensive, outside of UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee, to receive the distinguished honor.

UW-La Crosse is No. 1 in awarding physics bachelor’s degrees across the country, according to the latest data from the American Physical Society. UWL awarded an average of 35 degrees annually between 2015-17, making it No. 1 in the nation among bachelor’s degree-granting institutions on the American Physical Society list.

UWL has consistently placed among the top five on the national list for graduating high numbers of physics graduates. It was No. 1 previously for 2011-12.

To view the complete list of the 2020 APS Fellows and their citations, or to search all APS Fellows to date, visit the APS Fellow Archive.

UWL Physics Professor Shelly Lesher is the first UWL Physics Department member named an American Physical Society Fellow. She’s also the first faculty member from a UW System comprehensive, outside of UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee, to receive the distinguished honor.

Lesher’s recent accomplishments

  • Promoted to full professor, 2020
  • Yale Presidential Fellow at Yale University, 2019-20 academic year
  • National Science Foundation Grant recipient – “RUI: Nuclear physics research with undergraduate students,” June 2020.
  • National Science Foundation Grant recipient – “MRI: Acquisition of Si(Li) detectors and two BGO shields for the development of the La Crosse fIREBAll," September 2019
  • National Science Foundation Grant recipient – “Conference Participation Support Proposal – The Nuclear Physics Conference Experience for Undergraduates,” July, 2020