Two Waterloo Physicists win awards from the Canadian Association of Physics

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Congratulations to Professor Richard Epp for being awarded the 2021 CAP Medal for Excellence in Teaching Undergraduate Physics, and to Professor Roger Melko for being awarded the 2021 CAP/DCMMP Brockhouse Medal.

Professor Epp is recognized for his accomplishments in teaching and commitment to physics outreach. He consistently receives high teaching evaluations from majors and non-majors here in the Faculty of Science and students commended his "Thinking Like a Physicist" series that replaced informal interactions during the pandemic lockdown. Through his teaching, he inspires his students to think like a physicist and embrace their passion for the field.

During Fall 2020, Richard was instrumental in the design and delivery of a radically-altered remote version of the University of Waterloo’s first-year Mechanics course for physics majors. This course engaged over 500 students in live group work twice each week involving materials based on physics education research or developed by Richard to connect Mechanics material to more advanced and exciting topics. There were no marks associated with tests or quizzes in the course. Instead, students were motivated towards genuine learning, building a peer support network, and maintaining their mental health.

"I am deeply honoured to be recognized amongst such an esteemed group of teaching-focused colleagues. Receiving this award has sparked me into thinking about new ways I might help students, sharing my love and understanding of Physics to inspire them to do the hard work it takes to master this beautiful and powerful discipline."

The CAP Medal for Excellence in Teaching honours faculty members who have a comprehensive knowledge and deep understanding of their subject and who possess the ability to communicate their knowledge and understanding in such a way as to lead their students to high academic achievement in physics.

Professor Melko is recognized for his work on the theoretical understanding of many-body quantum systems through large-scale computer simulations. The theoretical tools developed by Dr. Melko’s group provide a new perspective on understanding of quantum condensed matter and have proven highly influential in areas such as quantum information, field theory, cold atomic matter, and artificial intelligence.

One of Melko’s most influential discoveries came in 2010, when he used intuition gleaned from quantum field theory to develop an innovative approach for evaluating entanglement entropies using quantum Monte Carlo simulations. This pioneering method is now broadly used in the theoretical and experimental study of quantum matter. It has had wide application, ranging from real materials in physics and chemistry, to cold atomic matter, to quantum information systems, to interacting quantum field theories relevant for high-energy physics and even quantum gravity.

"It's an incredible honour for me to receive this recognition from the Canadian physics community. I am grateful for the support of my many wonderful colleagues and collaborators, particularly the brilliant students and postdocs whose many contributions are acknowledged by this award."

The CAP Brockhouse Medal, which is sponsored jointly by the Division of Condensed Matter and Materials Physics (DCMMP) and the Canadian Association of Physicists (CAP), recognizes significant experimental or theoretical contributions to condensed matter and materials physics. It is named in honour of Bertram Brockhouse, whose outstanding contributions to research in condensed matter physics in Canada were recognized by the 1994 Nobel Prize for Physics.

Both medals are awarded from the Canadian Association of Physicists, a professional association representing physicists and physics students in Canada, the United States, and around the world.