University of South Alabama, Office of Public Relations
May 22, 2012
Contact: Jennifer Z. Ekman, USA Public Relations, (251) 460-6360

Physics Professor Endows Undergraduate Research Awards

Dr. Paul Helminger  
Dr. Paul Helminger
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University of South Alabama physics professor, Dr. Paul Helminger, has established the Helminger Endowment Fund in physics, which will provide annual funding for undergraduate research participation awards to physics students.

Dr. Helminger is retiring after 39 years of service to the University.

In addition to his teaching, Helminger’s NASA-sponsored research on the study of atmospheric molecules involved in the ozone cycle has led to more than 70 research publications. He has also been the project director of USA Science in Motion since 1999. This program brings modern laboratory experiments in physics, chemistry, and biology to area high school classrooms. Helminger was honored as Arts and Sciences Dean’s Lecturer in 1984 and as Outstanding Scholar by the USA National Alumni Association in 1989.

Helminger has made undergraduate research a priority throughout his career. He participated in research as an undergraduate student. He recalled knocking on professors’ doors as an undergraduate student until he found a physics professor who would give him a research opportunity. “I always thought it would be meaningful to participate in the research process since research requires you to do something no one has ever done before,” he said.

He also involved undergraduates in his own research and has supported faculty development for undergraduate research through his involvement in the Council on Undergraduate Research, a national organization dedicated to improving undergraduate science education through faculty development and undergraduate research participation. He served as chair of the 400-member Physics Division of the Council from 1995-98.

Regarding the endowment fund, Helminger said his immigrant parents gave him a strong example of giving back to the community since they were grateful for the opportunities they found in the United States.

“This fund will give future physics students the opportunity to experience the excitement of research and the discovery process in the field of physics,” he said.

“Dr. Helminger is a wonderful example of a faculty member whose extraordinary career at the University has truly impacted so many people and programs on campus,” said University Development Director Ginny Turner. “Beyond his role as a physics professor, Dr. Helminger has been a mentor to countless students and a leader in research with colleagues. As evidenced at the very well-attended retirement reception held in his honor, Dr. Helminger's volunteer work with the Boy Scouts of America, his church, various community organizations, and with innumerable University-related programs are recognized and appreciated by his friends, co-workers, and past and present students, many of whom chose to make personal contributions to the endowment fund in his honor.

“The Helminger Endowment Fund in Physics, which Dr. Helminger created by making annual contributions over an eight-year period, will serve to encourage physics students to conduct important research during their collegiate years -- just as Dr. Helminger has personally done for 39 years.”


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