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WPI Names New Physics Department Head

Contact: WPI Media Relations, +1-508-831-5706

WORCESTER, Mass. - John W. Norbury has joined the faculty at Worcester Polytechnic Institute as the new head of the Physics Department. Norbury comes to WPI after nearly two decades of academic work, most recently at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. Thomas H. Keil, the former head of the department, remains at WPI continuing his research and teaching as a professor of physics.

As the head of physics, Norbury will work with the department’s 12 faculty members to provide an undergraduate and graduate physics education that equally emphasizes theory, experiment, and computation while improving teaching laboratories and introducing a computational physics lab. Norbury also aims to boost the number of students pursuing degrees in physics at WPI by expanding the number of courses available, especially at the graduate level.

Norbury’s primary field of research is in protecting astronauts from cosmic radiation, which has lead to a strong a working relationship with NASA. Additionally, he brings ongoing research projects in theoretical nuclear and particle physics to WPI.

In the classroom, Norbury hopes to teach courses in astronomy, space radiation, quantum field theory and particle physics, as well as courses for the core requirements in undergraduate and graduate physics.

"John Norbury has been working to help solve one of the most difficult problems facing the planned manned mission to Mars, that of radiation shielding," says William W. Durgin, associate provost and vice president of research at WPI. "He is renowned for his research on space radiation resulting from solar flares, and he is a welcome addition not only to the Physics Department but also to our faculty with strong research interests in space flight."

Norbury has had nearly 100 peer-reviewed scientific papers published, and is a frequent presenter at conferences and professional meetings in the United States, Japan, Italy, Russia, Sweden, and Australia. He is a member of numerous professional organizations and societies, including the American Physical Society, American Astronomical Society, and the American Association of Physics Teachers.

Norbury holds a B.S. in physics and an M.S. specializing in experimental nuclear physics from the University of Melbourne, Australia. He earned a Ph.D. in theoretical nuclear and particle physics at the University of Idaho, where he did his doctoral dissertation on "Pion Production in Relativistic Heavy Ion Collisions."