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Top students clamor to get into Governor's School

3/11/2008

Thanks to the outstanding physics faculty and the phenomenal success of the department’s innovative program in computational physics, Austin Peay State University was chosen last year to host the state’s Governor’s School in Computational Physics.

Funded by the state, Governor’s Schools are designed for gifted high school students with each school providing challenging, intensive learning experiences in specific disciplines.
Thanks to the outstanding physics faculty and the phenomenal success of the department's innovative program in computational physics, Austin Peay State University was chosen last year to host the state's Governor's School in Computational Physics.

Funded by the state, Governor's Schools are designed for gifted high school students with each school providing challenging, intensive learning experiences in specific disciplines.

The Governor's School in Computational Physics—APSU's first Governor's School—is attracting the state's best and brightest students from Johnson City to Memphis to Chattanooga, according to Dr. Jaime Taylor, professor of physics and interim dean of the College of Science and Mathematics.

Taylor indicated that one of the most phenomenal applicants is Courtney Sanford, Hendersonville, who scored a 28 on her ACT—in 8th grade. “A 28 on your ACT would be great for a high school senior,” Taylor said.

“Her parents told me she was ecstatic to have been accepted to our Governor's School. It was all she had talked about from the time she heard about it.”

Another successful applicant is Matthew Jones, Murfreesboro, who plans on a career in engineering. Jones chose the Governor's School in Computational Physics over the Governor's School for Engineering at University of Tennessee-Knoxville. A sophomore, Jones is No. 1 in his class of 573 at Siegel High School, one of Tennessee's top academic schools. In addition to a perfect 4.0 grade point average, Jones took the ACT in December 2007, scoring a 30 in math and 32 in science with a 29 composite score.

In an e-mail to Taylor, his mother, Ann Jones, wrote: “(My son) is absolutely delighted with your offer and definitely accepts. He has had a great time looking at your Web site and talking to his cousin, who is a recent engineering graduate, about what you are offering and how it fits into his career plans. Thank you for affording him this honor and privilege.”

The Governor's School in Computational Physics was approved late last summer, long after other Governor's Schools had begun recruiting for their Summer 2008 programs. Despite this disadvantage, APSU'S Governor's School received about 100 applications.

From these applications, only 36 students were selected for the five-week Governor's School at APSU. Among those 36, eight of the students coming to APSU this summer for Governor's School are No. 1 in their class, and three rank No. 2 in their class.

“The number of applications we received is very impressive, considering the criteria to apply to the Governor's School in Computational Physics was very high and the scope of our program was very narrow,” said Taylor.

Computational physics combines physics, computer science and applied mathematics to provide scientific solutions to complex problems. Taking two intensive courses, participants will earn eight hours of college credit and will take trips to such computational research centers as Oak Ridge National Laboratory's National Center for Computational Sciences and NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.

Austin Peay's department of physics and astronomy, one of the first in the U.S. to implement a required course in Computation Methods, has earned a reputation for recruiting, retaining and placing students in prestigious fellowships, assistantships and doctoral programs.

In 1999, the department had nine majors. By 2005-06, it had more than 60 majors. -- Dennie B. Burke