David Schmitz receives 2011 Director’s Volunteer Award

Dave Schmitz received the Director’s Award on Dec. 7. Photo: Reidar Hahn

At an award ceremony on Dec. 7, Fermilab Director Pier Oddone presented physicist David Schmitz with the annual Director’s Award, recognizing Schmitz’s volunteer service.

The award is given annually to an employee, user, graduate student, retiree or guest scientist who contributed significantly to Fermilab’s K-12 education programs.

Marge Bardeen, head of Fermilab Education Office, said that Fermilab volunteer outreach activities reached more than 36,000 kids and 2,500 teachers this year.

“Thank you for doing what you do,” Oddone said to the volunteers at the ceremony. “That’s one of the great things I like to brag about. That we are able to reach so many people through our volunteers and get so many people excited about science is a wonderful thing.”

Schmitz, whose experience with Fermilab extends back to his graduate thesis work eight years ago, has been visiting classrooms and performing physics demonstrations since 2008. Along with 2010 award winner Mike Cooke, Schmitz developed a show called “FUNdamentals of Physics” to demonstrate how Newton’s laws apply to children’s everyday lives. They have performed it at Fermilab’s open houses and Daughters and Sons to Work Day.

Over the years, Schmitz has also frequently volunteered for various events, including Science Chicago’s LabFest at Millennium Park and field trips to Fermilab.

During the visits, Schmitz has enjoyed the unscripted talks with middle and high school students.

“That’s tons of fun,” he said. “I’ve been asked an unbelievable spectrum of questions from 14-year-old kids.”

Beyond K-12, Schmitz has also volunteered for the Ask-a-Scientist program and Physics for Everyone lecture series. In the award nomination, the selection committee lauded Schmitz for “generosity with his time enhancing the laboratory’s reputation in both education and science research.”

“This is really great. Thank you very much,” Schmitz said in receiving the award. “I’m very honored because I know that everyone in this room does a lot of great things and have done so for a very long time.”

Nine other nominees received recognition certificates for their strong contributions at the ceremony: Maurice Ball, AD; Curtis Danner, PPD; David Harding, TD; Todd Johnson, AD; Don Lincoln, PPD; James Santucci, AD; Chris Stoughton, CD; Dennis Nicklaus, AD; and Linda Purcell-Taylor, AD.

The annual award is made possible by an anonymous donor to Fermilab Friends for Science Education, a not-for-profit organization supporting science education programs at Fermilab.

Brad Hooker