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UMKC professor receives President’s Award for Sustained Career Excellence

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Kelly Wiemann

April 14, 2017

Award recognizes faculty who exhibit sustained excellence during the course of their career

KANSAS CITY, Mo. –  On behalf of the University of Missouri System, University of Missouri-Kansas City Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer today awarded the ninth of ten UM System President’s Awards to be presented to faculty in 2017 to Curators’ Distinguished Professor of Physics Wai-Yim Ching.

Bichelmeyer—accompanied by Associate Teaching Professor Robert Riggs—surprised Ching in front of his colleagues at a physics faculty meeting with the President’s Award for Sustained Career Excellence, which includes a $5,000 prize. The award recognizes faculty for distinguished, career-long sustained excellence in scholarship, research or creativity, for a period of 15 or more years.

Ching began teaching at UMKC as an assistant professor of physics in 1978. He quickly rose to a tenured associate professor in 1981 and a full professor in 1984. In 1988, he was named to his current role as a Curators’ Distinguished Professor of Physics.

“Professor Ching has served the university and the physics department 38 years and has truly sustained excellence as a researcher and teacher,” nominators Fred Leibsle and Robert Riggs, both from the department of physics, wrote. “Dr. Ching has published refereed publications that are well-received within the scientific community and have been published in top journals in his field. Forty of those publications have been within the last five years, indicating that Dr. Ching is not slowing down.”

Ching’s research and publications cover diverse disciplines, such as condensed matter physics, ceramics and glasses, chemistry, biology, material science, engineering, medical science, geophysics and earth science. He was one of the most cited physicists in the world from 1981 to 1997, with more 2,000 citations of 171 papers. To date, his published research has been cited more than 16,400 times.

“Wai-Yim is almost consumed by physics research, typically working seven days a week. In those rare years when he takes a family vacation, he spends much of his time expanding his knowledge of the literature, while continuing to lead his research group remotely,” wrote Associate Dean Michael Kruger.

With just 10 professors, the UMKC Department of Physics and Astronomy has obtained more than $2.7 million in external funding, well above national averages. Colleagues credit Ching for much of that success.

“The primary force behind the tremendous improvements in research productivity was Wai-yim, who through his leadership, mentoring and most importantly, exceedingly good example, helped the department make great strides towards enhanced research,” said Kruger.

Since 1978, Ching has brought in nearly $8 million in external support and has been funded by several agencies including the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation and the United States Department of Defense.

“Few physicists, and very few theorists, obtain this amount of money, a clear indication that funding agencies think very highly of Wai-Yim and his research,” continued Kruger. “This national recognition is echoed in other areas, such as Wai-Yim’s having published more than 410 refereed publications, and his election as a fellow of the American Physical Society.”

The UM System President’s Awards are presented annually to faculty members across the four campuses of the UM System who have made exceptional contributions in advancing the mission of the university. Ching will be formally recognized by UM System President Mun Choi during an awards celebration to be held in June.

Chancellor Morton congratulates Dr. Wai-Yim Ching.