Western physics professor receives honor

Bryan Snead

Charles McGruder started this school year like no other professor in university history.

He was appointed the first William McCormack Professor in Physics, a position he will hold for five years.

The professorship is part of a $1 million endowment to Western by Dr. William M. McCormack, a 1957 alumnus and namesake of McCormack Hall.

McGruder was appointed by a panel consisting of Blaine Ferrell, dean of the Ogden College of Science and Engineering, President Gary Ransdell and McCormack.

“This is a position that will allow him to reach his full potential,” said fellow astronomy professor Michael Carini.

The honor designates a leader in research and supports the proposed Kentucky Academy for Math and Science at Western. The academy will allow outstanding high school juniors and seniors to live and study at Western, earning 60 college credits.

“Dr. McGruder was a natural selection for this position,” Ferrell said, “He is deeply involved in the work with the academy.”

McGruder resigned as the Physics department head in order to focus on research and to work with the new academy. A search for his replacement is underway.

He will be devoting more time to work on the S.T.A.R.B.A.S.E. project, an effort to study black holes and search for planets in distant solar systems. The project is also involved with the development of new telescopes in Hawaii and South Africa.

“This project gives students an experience with front line research in analytical astronomy,” McGruder said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity.”

McGruder has a bachelors degree in astronomy from the California Institute of Technology and a doctorate from the University of Heidelberg in Germany.

He will spend about half his time on research, with the remainder split between work with the academy and teaching classes.

Reach Bryan Snead at [email protected]