Campus News

Professor of Physics William Dennis receives outstanding graduate mentoring award

Athens, Ga. – William Dennis, a University of Georgia professor of physics, recently received the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools’ 2011 Outstanding Mentor Award. The award is presented each year to a university faculty member who mentors graduate students.
The CSGS will recognize Dennis and his mentoring achievements at its annual meeting in Huntsville, Ala., on Feb. 26. Dennis will also receive a $1,000 award from the CSGS.

“Bill has a strong understanding of his own mentoring style, which is demonstrated in how he works with students and other faculty,” said Maureen Grasso, dean of the UGA Graduate School. “He believes that the adviser has a critical role in helping students be successful in graduate school and preparing them for their career of choice.”

According to Grasso, Dennis establishes an atmosphere for mentoring graduate students.

“Bill provides an environment of academic excellence for all students in the department,” said Grasso. “He knows how to motivate students and understands the steps his department must take for every student to succeed.”

After becoming the head of the physics and astronomy department in 2006, Dennis began several initiatives to improve morale among graduate students. Once per term, Dennis invites every physics and astronomy graduate student to his house, allowing them to openly express their concerns and complaints about academic life.

According to his colleagues, Dennis’ outreach programs for graduate students and mentoring talents are unmatched.

“Bill’s dedication to his students, to their professional development is legend in the department,” said Heinz-Bernd Schüttler, a UGA professor of physics. “It is no surprise that he has been able to attract, guide and inspire his students, not only to the successful completion of their degrees, but also to very successful professional careers in their research fields.”

Sean Kirkpatrick, a former doctoral student, said Dennis personally puts in the effort to ensure that students understand complicated concepts.

“As a student, some of the more complex and esoteric nuances of physics were laid bare not by hours of advanced math and repetition, but by simple conversations with Bill in the office or in the lab,” said Kirkpatrick. “He enables his students, as he did with me, by teaching the simple truths that are oftentimes hiding behind the complexities of the calculus.”

Dennis became a UGA faculty member in 1988 and has mentored more physics and astronomy students than all but two professors. In the last 17 years, he directed 12 dissertations for doctoral students and four theses for master’s students. In 2007, the UGA Graduate School presented Dennis with the Outstanding Graduate Mentoring Award in Life and Physical Sciences.

The Conference of Southern Graduate Schools represents more than 200 graduate schools in 15 southern states and the District of Columbia. For more information on the CSGS, see

For more information on the UGA Graduate School, see