N. Eugene Bickers

Gene Bickers is vice provost for undergraduate programs. His responsibilities include oversight of the Renaissance Scholars, Undergraduate Research, and McNair Scholars Programs, as well as the Center for Pedagogical Technology, which helps coordinate efforts by faculty and information technology staff to enhance the classroom experience. In addition, he works with the vice provost for academic affairs to develop new curricular strategies that address USC's commitment to education centered on the diverse needs of undergraduate learners.

Bickers earned his bachelor's degree in physics and mathematics with highest distinction at the University of Virginia in 1981. His master's (1983) and doctoral (1986) degrees in theoretical physics are from Cornell University. After completing a two-year postdoctoral appointment at the Institute for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara, he joined the faculty of the University of Southern California as an assistant professor in 1988. He was promoted to associate professor in 1992 and professor in 1998. He served as chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy from 2003 to 2005.

Bickers' research has concentrated on the physics of strongly correlated electrons in solids. His group has developed novel computational schemes for treating models for electron conduction and has used these methods to investigate high-temperature superconductivity and quantum magnetism. He has supervised four doctoral dissertations, and his research has been supported by the National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research.

He was an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow from 1991 to 1993. He is the recipient of the USC College's Raubenheimer Junior and Senior Faculty Awards (1992 and 2002). Bickers' teaching has been at all levels, ranging from the introductory course for non-scientists to advanced graduate courses in condensed matter theory. He is known for enlivening his introductory courses with a range of demonstrations, including an annual firewalk to illustrate the principles of heat transfer. He is the recipient of a Mortar Board Excellence in Teaching Award (1994), the College's General Education Teaching Award (2000), the University's Teaching has No Boundaries Award (2003), and the University Associates Award for Excellence in Teaching (1999). He was also a Faculty Fellow in the University's Center for Excellence in Teaching from 1997 to 2000. He has been a member of the National Committee of Examiners for the Graduate Record Examination in physics since 2001, serving as committee chair beginning in 2004.

He has taught courses in physics for non-science and pre-health majors, engineers, and physical scientists. His teaching was recognized with a Mortar Board award in 1994. He has also been active in elementary and secondary school outreach programs sponsored by Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and USC's Center to Advance Precollege Science Education.

One of his primary goals is to help improve the teaching of introductory and lower division courses in science and mathematics. Such courses remain one of the last bastions of traditional lecture techniques, which sometimes provide decidedly mixed results. He hopes to explore with other interested faculty a range of innovative science teaching approaches, including peer instruction and studio learning. He is also interested in working on new approaches to undergraduate mentoring.

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