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Gail E. Dodge, a nuclear physicist who has taken a leading role in atom-smashing experiments at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (JLab) in Newport News, has been appointed chair of the Old Dominion University physics department.

Since joining the ODU faculty in 1995, Dodge has juggled classroom teaching and the birth of a daughter with investigations of sub-atomic particles.
She won the College of Sciences Faculty Excellence Award for 2003 and since this spring has been the principal investigator of a $1.7 million Department of Energy grant that supports research by ODU nuclear physicists at JLab.

"We are very pleased to announce this appointment," said Richard V. Gregory, dean of the College of Sciences. "Dr. Dodge will bring her enthusiasm for research and education to bear on the physics department and will play a vital role in bringing further national recognition to this department. We look forward to a very bright future for the department under her guiding hand."

Gregory announced the appointment Aug. 31.

"Gail Dodge is a fine physicist and an excellent teacher," said Provost Thomas Isenhour. "She is well organized and a leader in ODU's outstanding department of physics. I am sure that she will be a terrific chair."

Dodge said she had thought that someday she would want to be chair of the department, "but the opportunity came quicker than I expected." She said she could
"take the plunge at this time only because I am a member of a strong research group in a harmonious department. The faculty has been very supportive."

She said she hopes the physics faculty can be expanded in the near future. "I think ODU's push to be among the nation's top 100 public research universities is important, and to play in that league, the physics department must be bigger," she said. She would be pleased, she added, if the department could branch into other fields such as experimental condensed matter physics or astrophysics.

Eleven members of the university's 20-person physics faculty make up a nuclear physics university research group that is one of the nation's largest. The internationally diverse faculty includes three Russians, two Serbs, an Armenian, a German, an Italian, an Australian and an Irishman.

Dodge did postdoctoral research at the Free University in Amsterdam, but her roots are in New England and all of her formal education came in the United States.

She credits a high school teacher in her hometown of Wenham, Mass., with setting her on her career path. "He, remarkably enough, had a Ph.D. in nuclear physics," she said. As inspiring as this teacher was, however, Dodge was not sure when she entered Princeton University whether she would choose physics or political science as a major. "I chose Princeton because it was strong in both and I could do either."

She earned a doctorate from Stanford University in 1993 and has focused since then on experimental nuclear physics. Most recently, she has researched the angular momentum and excited states of the neutron.

This article was posted on: September 8, 2005

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