The University of Alabama National Alumni Association has announced the 2011 recipients of the University’s highest honor for excellence in teaching – the Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award. Among this years winners was Dr. Patrick LeClair of the Dept. of Physics and the MINT Center.
Dr. Patrick R. LeClair joined the UA department of physics and astronomy in 2005, following a three-year postdoctoral position at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At UA, he primarily teaches introductory and mid-level physics courses and maintains an active research group in magnetic and electronic materials.
Since 2008, LeClair has been the undergraduate director for physics and astronomy. His main achievements have been implementing personal, face-to-face advising for every major student every semester and championing the physics-electrical and computer engineering double major, which has been largely responsible for increasing majors nearly threefold in the last four years.
LeClair has been actively committed to revising the undergraduate physics curriculum. With the help of a teaching grant from the College of Arts and Sciences in 2006-2007, he developed and implemented a computerized laboratory system for introductory electricity and magnetism labs which has been in use ever since. In 2009-2010, he redesigned the sophomore “Modern Physics” laboratory with entirely new equipment and a custom laboratory manual. In fall 2009, he and Dr. Ray White developed a freshman seminar course to introduce potential physics and astronomy majors to the latest developments in the field.
At UA, LeClair has also been a pioneer in the use of social media, finding that students will be engaged by interacting with the tools they enjoy and feel comfortable with. Nearly every aspect of his courses can be monitored online with notes, tutorials and multiple venues for student interaction
LeClair’s research primarily focuses on electrical and magnetic properties of novel materials and devices, and he maintains an active research laboratory in UA’s MINT Center. He is the principal investigator on three National Science Foundation grants and one Department of Energy grant. He received his bachelor’s degree in materials science from MIT and his doctorate cum laude in physics from Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands.