Michael J. Ruiz, Ph.D.
Michael J. Ruiz, originally from Camden, New Jersey, came to the University of North Carolina at Asheville (UNCA) in 1978 where he taught for his entire career of 43 years, retiring in June 2021. He chaired the department for 20 years from 1980 to 2000 and was cofounder of the UNCA Undergraduate Research Program, as well as cofounder of the National Conference of Undergraduate Research (NCUR). While at UNCA he taught courses for majors, physics and astronomy for the general student, and the third Humanities course. His courses in sound and light with their interactive eBooks were featured on CNN in 2002.
His awards include the UNCA Distinguished Teacher Award (1995), the Award for Teaching Excellence in the Natural Sciences (1997), the national 1999 Outstanding Society of Physics Chapter Advisor Award, the UNC Board of Governors Excellence in Teaching Award representing UNCA (2004), a Ruth and Leon Feldman Award for Outstanding Scholarship and Service (2010), and a 2017 Distinguished Scholarship & Creative Activity Award, based on the last 5 years of publications.
- Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, 1978
- M.S. in Physics, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, 1975B.S. in Physics, St. Joseph’s College (now University), Philadelphia, PA, 1972
- B.S. in Physics, St. Joseph’s College (now University), Philadelphia, PA, 1972
Charles Bennet, Ph.D.
Charles Bennet joined the faculty at UNC Asheville in 1982 and immediately established a laser physics lab; he involved undergraduates in his laser research throughout his 38 years here. His research areas include optical measurements on high temperature plasmas and infrared imaging applications using heterodyne detection. His laser work with undergraduates and his work with Oak Ridge National Laboratory gave him a research record of more than 50 journal articles, presentations at conferences, and research grants.
Bennett received one of the two 1996-1997 UNC Asheville Distinguished Feldman Awards for his research. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, he was director of the Center of Teaching and Learning (CTL) for several years, and became a proponent of online delivery of the curriculum, which was just getting started back then. Bennett also was named director of the Pisgah Astronomical Research and Science Educational Center (PARSEC ) for most of the 2000s, which was a research consortium between the radio telescope site PARI (the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute) and local universities. He was also department chair from 2010-2018 and authored Principles of Physical Optics, first edition published by John Wiley (2008) with a second edition that came out in October 2022.
- Ph.D. in Physics, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, 1982
- M.S. in Physics, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, 1981
- B.S. in Physics, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, 1976
Randy A. Booker, Ph.D.
Randy A. Booker, originally from Beaumont, Texas, received his B. A. in Physics from Rice University in 1979, Houston, TX. He served in the Peace Corps from 1979-1981 teaching math and science in a high school in Kenya. He then went to Duke University, Durham, NC, where he received an M.A. in Physics (1983) and Ph.D. (1986) in experimental molecular physics. He began teaching and conducting research at the University of North Carolina at Asheville (UNCA) in 1986 and he taught at UNCA for his entire career of 37 academic years, retiring in June 2023. He chaired the Physics department for 12 years from 2000 to 2010, and 2018-2020. He received the UNCA Distinguished Teacher Award in 1992 and the Outstanding SPS Chapter Advisor Award in 2015 (a national award). He had served as the Faculty Advisor to the UNCA Chapter of the SPS (Society of Physics Students) for 15 years, from 2001-2016.
While at UNCA he taught courses for majors, physics and astronomy for the general student, the fourth Humanities course, the Honors Program, Freshmen and Transfer Colloquia, and the Masters of Liberal Arts and Sciences Program. He was also elected to serve on the National Council for SPS for a total of nine years, from 2004-2007 and 2013-2019. For 18 years (2005-2023), he served as a research consultant to Brilliant Light Power, of Cranbury, NJ. Dr. Booker’s research interests have been in the analysis of the microwave spectra of molecules, detection of these molecules in star forming regions of our galaxy using radio astronomy, and in the development of novel, environmentally-friendly, non-polluting energy sources.
- Ph.D. in Physics, Duke University, Durham, NC, 1986
- M.A. in Physics, Duke University, Durham, NC, 1983
- B.A. in Physics, Rice University, Houston, TX, 1979
Forest Davenport, Ph.D.
Originally from Houston, TX, Forest Davenport earned his B.A. from Rice University in Houston in 1977. He earned an M.S. and Ph.D. in Physics from Florida State University in Tallahassee in 1984. After working as a postdoc in experimental particle physics at Fermi National Accelerator Lab for 3 years he came to UNC-Asheville in 1988 where he taught introductory calculus-based physics, classical mechanics, electromagnetic theory, thermal physics and mathematical methods in physics. He retired as Professor Emeritus of Physics in 2011.
- Ph.D. in Physics, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, 1984
- M.S. in Physics, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, 1981
- B.A. in Physics, Rice University, Houston, TX, 1977
Brian Dennison, Ph.D.
Brian Dennison served as the endowed UNC-Asheville Glaxo-Wellcome Professor from 2004 to 2014. In 2006 he successfully proposed UNCA for institutional membership in the North Carolina Space Grant Consortium. Subsequently, he served as the Space Grant Campus Director until his retirement in 2017. At UNCA Brian taught Astronomy, Astrophysics, Cosmology, Observational Astronomy, and Quantum Mechanics. His research interests include astrophysics and radio astronomy, and he has received extensive funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in support of these efforts.
Prior to joining the faculty at UNCA, Brian was Professor of Physics and Director of the Institute for Particle Physics and Astrophysics at Virginia Tech. He was a Senior Fulbright Scholar at the Onsala Space Observatory in Sweden, and he worked as a Radio Astronomer at the E. O. Hulbert Center for Space Research of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC.
In his research Brian has utilized radio observatories throughout the U.S. and Europe. Most recently, he participated in the development of Lookout Observatory on the campus of UNCA. This facility is operated jointly by UNCA and the Astronomy Club of Asheville, and is used extensively for student research, undergraduate instruction, and outreach to the community.
- Ph.D. in Astronomy, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, 1976
- M.S. in Astronomy, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, 1974
- B.S. in Physics, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY, 1970