Gifts from Avenir and Lin usher in new era of OU physics education

Spring 2016

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The new Dodge Physics Complex will put OU at the forefront of physics education. It honors the longtime head of OU’s Department of Physics, seen here in his office in 1934.

The new Dodge Physics Complex will put OU at the forefront of physics education. It honors the longtime head of OU’s Department of Physics, seen here in his office in 1934.
Physics education at OU will forever be changed with the construction of a state-of-the-art complex made possible by major gifts from the Avenir Foundation of Lake­wood, Colo., and former faculty member Chun C. Lin.

A new aca­demic building, to be named Lin Hall, will pro­vide more than 18,000 square feet of research laboratories and 15,000 square feet of office and support space for fac­ulty members, p o s t d o c t o r a l students and graduate students in the Homer L. Dodge Depart­ment of Physics and Astronomy. The building will connect to the existing Nielsen Hall; together, the buildings will be known as the Dodge Physics Complex.

“We are extremely grateful to the Avenir Foundation and to Chun Lin for these generous gifts,” said OU President David L. Boren. “They are even more ap­preciated in these tough economic times.”

The Avenir Foundation has been deeply involved with OU physics education, providing three endowed chairs and funds for the renovation of Nielsen Hall in 2005. Construction of the new building will begin next fall on the site now occupied by Gittinger Hall, with completion scheduled for spring of 2019. The complex will be modern, spacious and provide premier laboratory space with pre­cisely controlled environmental pa­rameters for world-class research. In addition, an astronomy observatory will be built on the roof.

“This is going to be a big, big jump in facilities that will help attract the best faculty members and students,” said Lin. “Much of recent progress in physics is due to technology. Having it all avail­able right on OU’s campus will be marvelous.”

A member of the Homer L. Dodge Department of Physics and Astronomy Board of Visitors, Lin joined OU’s faculty in 1955 and helped initiate a noted program on electron excitement of atoms. He taught until 1968, when he joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Today, Lin serves as Wisconsin’s John and Abigail Van Vleck Pro­fessor of Physics. He has led one of the world’s foremost groups of physicists studying atomic colli­sions and was awarded the Ameri­can Physical Society’s Will Allis Prize for his contributions to the study of ionized gasses. Lin was named a recipient of OU’s Honor­ary Degree in 2015. “I enjoyed my 13 years at OU very much, and I am still sentimental about the place where I began my career,” he said.

Dodge came to OU in 1919 as a professor of physics and became head of the Department of Phys­ics. He played a formative role in the department’s growth for a quarter century and also served as dean of OU’s Graduate School. Dodge was described by peers as, “an idea man, full of new visions,” and was founder of OU’s Engi­neering Physics Program and the OU Research Institute, which in 1941 innovated collaboration be­tween university scientists and private industry.

During World War II, Dodge left OU to serve as director of the National Research Council’s Of­fice of Scientific Personnel. He later became president of Nor­wich University in Vermont.

Dodge also advocated for con­struction of what is now Nielsen Hall, which makes it even more fitting that the new physics com­plex will carry his name, Boren said. “The Avenir Foundation has sought to emulate the spirit of Dr. Dodge’s extraordinary accom­plishments and to ensure a latter-day continuation of his work – the furtherance of teaching and re­search and the pursuit of learning and discovery by OU’s Depart­ment of Physics as it thrives and achieves well into the future.”