George Rossman, professor of mineralogy at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, Calif., and a member of the Gemological Institute of America’s Board of Governors, has been named this year’s recipient of the Feynman Prize, Caltech’s most prestigious teaching honor.
The award is presented annually to an outstanding Caltech faculty member. It recognizes “exceptional ability, creativity, and innovation in both laboratory and classroom instruction,” according to the award criteria, and it is named in remembrance of legendary Caltech physics professor and Nobel Laureate Dr. Richard Feynman. Judging is based on significant input from current and former students.
A longtime supporter of GIA, Rossman began working with the Institute’s Research department thirty years ago, and he has participated in the GIA Research Advisory Committee for two decades. He has also served on the Editorial Review Board of GIA’s scientific journal Gems & Gemology since 1981, and has authored several articles for the publication. In 1998, Rossman received one of the mineralogical community’s greatest honors when a newly discovered species of tourmaline was named rossmanite in his honor. He has served on GIA’s Board of Governors since 1995.
At Caltech, Rossman studies the interaction of electromagnetic radiation with minerals. His work focuses on the visible and infrared portions of the electromagnetic spectrum, but past studies have involved every other region as well. It was Rossman’s probe into how visible light interacts with minerals that prompted him to channel his work into the gemological world.
As a result of Rossman’s tutelage, many of his former students are now prominent mineralogists themselves. One of his protÃ©gÃ©s currently works as a researcher at the Smithsonian Institution.
Rossman says introducing fundamental concepts via gem minerals offers an effective way to maintain students’ interest. “For me, the minerals are a beautiful entry into the science, because the beautiful colors and shapes are always due to underlying scientific principles,” he said.