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Robert Armstrong named Gardiner Professor in Physics

Physics Professor Robert L. Armstrong has been selected as New Mexico State University's Gardiner Professor in Physics for 1999-2001.

The appointment includes an award of about $20,000 a year for Armstrong to use for research or teaching purposes.

The Gardiner Professorship is awarded every two years to a physics faculty member who has demonstrated excellence in scholarship, leadership, research and teaching. The endowed professorship was made possible by gifts totaling more than $400,000 from the estate of Anna H. Gardiner, whose husband, George W. Gardiner, was the first head of the physics department and founder of the Physical Science Laboratory at NMSU.

"Dr. Armstrong is an excellent teacher who has taught almost the full range of courses in the department," said George R. Burleson, head of the physics department. "He is an outstanding researcher, internationally recognized. And he has provided a great deal of service to his department, the university, the community and his profession."

Armstrong earned his doctorate in physics at Johns Hopkins University and joined the NMSU faculty in 1970. His primary research emphasis is on optics and laser physics. "I have long been interested in lasers and the interaction of laser light with matter," he said.

His latest research project, with fellow NMSU physics faculty member Vladimir Shalaev, involves the development of a new type of composite material that enables lasers to operate efficiently at extremely low power levels. Coincidentally, Shalaev was named NMSU's first Gardiner Professor of Physics two years ago.

George W. Gardiner, in whose honor the endowed professorship was created, was head of the university's physics department for more than 23 years. He founded the Physical Science Laboratory in 1946 to support the U.S. Army's testing of captured German rockets at White Sands Proving Ground, now White Sands Missile Range, after World War II.

The PSL's initial role was processing data from rocket test flights. Gardiner was the lab's first director and his wife Anna, who taught mathematics at the university, supervised the math, physics and engineering students who analyzed the data. The Gardiners retired from the university in 1961.

Members of the physics faculty submit nominations for the Gardiner Professorship and the selection is made by the department head in consultation with the dean of NMSU's College of Arts and Sciences.

Karl Hill
May 12,1999