Nobel Prize winner Carl Wieman receives the 2016 Gutenberg Teaching Award

Nobel laureate in Physics has distinguished himself in many ways both as an exceptional researcher and as a teacher


The 2016 Gutenberg Teaching Award has been given to Professor Carl Wieman, a Nobel Prize laureate in Physics. The Gutenberg Teaching Council (GTC) of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) is thus recognizing the achievements of an outstanding researcher who, in addition to making breakthroughs in the field of quantum optics, has contributed impressively to the dissemination of knowledge and the quality of academic teaching. "It is a particular pleasure and a great honor for us to present Professor Carl Wieman with this year's Gutenberg Teaching Award," declared JGU President, Professor Georg Krausch. "Carl Wieman is an outstanding, world-class scientist who is not only actively involved in research but also promotes the development of excellent educational approaches to the sharing of knowledge and the training of students in unparalleled fashion." In 2007, he established the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative (CWSEI) at the University of British Columbia aimed at improving undergraduate science education.

Born in 1951, Carl Wieman studied Physics at the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In 1975, he transferred to Stanford University, where he worked for the subsequent Nobel Prize winner Theodor Hänsch, under whose guidance he completed his doctoral degree in 1977. He occupied posts as an assistant professor at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and as Professor of Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder. In 1995, working in collaboration with Eric Cornell, he was able to create the first pure Bose-Einstein condensate, the fourth aggregate state of matter. As a result, he together with his colleagues Eric Cornell and Wolfgang Ketterle were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2001. In subsequent years, Wieman increasingly dedicated himself to improving the quality of teaching and in 2004 was awarded the title of U.S. Professor of the Year together with three other lecturers. In 2006, he moved to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, where he founded the CWSEI. Since 2013, he has been teaching in a combined post at the Department of Physics at Stanford University and its Graduate School of Education.

Wieman places a specific emphasis on the promulgation of knowledge in the natural sciences, technology, and mathematics. The CWSEI was established as an institute of the University of British Columbia and now consists of seven active departments working in the fields of Life Sciences through Computer Science and Physics to Chemistry and Mathematics. "This institution is unique worldwide. It offers highly competent teaching at the cutting-edge of science and provides for the exceptional education of Bachelor degree students and prospective teachers," emphasized Professor Harald Paulsen, Director of the Gutenberg Teaching Council at Mainz University.

After two years at the White House Office of Science and Technology working as an advisor to the President of the United States of America in matters of science education, Wieman's subsequent efforts at Stanford University have been concentrated on further improving the educational approach to training undergraduate students in the natural sciences. Wieman's concept is based on combining an analysis and survey of the current status of the corresponding teaching content with empirical studies. When teaching, Wieman utilizes novel tools and modern media and technologies. "In the person of Carl Wieman, the Gutenberg Teaching Council is paying homage to an internationally eminent figure in the worlds of research and education. The approach he has developed should help generate major new stimuli that will lead to the improvement of methods of teaching in the natural science disciplines at Mainz University," added Paulsen.

The Gutenberg Teaching Award will be presented to Wieman in the spring of 2017 at an official ceremony when the prize winner comes to JGU to assume the post of a guest professorship. The teaching staff for Physics and all other faculties and institutes at Mainz University will then have the opportunity to discuss his educational concepts with Professor Carl Wieman in person.

The Gutenberg Teaching Council was established at Mainz University in early 2011. Its primary strategic objective is to design and advance teaching and learning structures at JGU. Moreover, the Gutenberg Teaching Council initiates measures for the promotion of academic teaching competence and skills with specific reference to aspects of research orientation, interdisciplinarity, internationalism, and career orientation. The Gutenberg Teaching Award comes with a prize of EUR 10,000 and was awarded for the first time in 2014.