Faculty Hall of Fame: Roger Hinrichs, Ph.D.
From his retirement home in Seattle, Roger Hinrichs, Ph.D., reflects positively on his 23 years as a professor in the SUNY Oswego physics department. He joined the faculty in 1972 with a B.S. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a doctorate from the University of Washington.
Focusing his research and teaching on matters of energy, Hinrichs is the principal author of seven books, including a free resource foundational textbook, College Physics. He said he is working on a sixth edition of a book that grew from his Oswego experience, Energy: Its Use and The Environment, co-written with Merlin Kleinbach, Ph.D.
“Energy was a natural topic of study because Oswego is one of the major centers for energy production in the country,” he said. Working with other departments across campus, physics faculty members created a course called “Energy and the Environment” and developed the Institute in Energy Education. In partnership with the New York Power Authority, the work of the institute reached more than 1 million students and 600 teachers.
Hinrichs and his colleagues developed novel techniques in applied nuclear physics, using a Van de Graff particle accelerator, and he was recognized several times through the Award of Excellence in Research and Sponsored Programs initiative, culminating with a Gold Award in 2002, three years before his early retirement.
SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor Alok Kumar, Ph.D., who was appointed in 1992 while Hinrichs traveled to Oman as a Fulbright Fellow, said he felt fortunate as a new professor to have Hinrichs as a mentor.
“His passion for preserving the environment led him to offer teacher workshops that attracted support from national as well as local agencies,” Kumar said. “As a result of his contributions to energy education, Roger received an award from New York Governor Mario Cuomo. In addition to being a sincere and successful scholar, Roger loved helping students. He taught them life lessons as well as physics.”
Hinrichs said his intent was to teach the practical applications of his discipline.
“We explored topics that students could relate to,” Hinrichs said, “such as those addressing human heart disease and metal concentration, air pollution from wood burning stoves, element concentrations in Lake Ontario fish, and tree rings as indicators of environmental pollution over time. I was most gratified whenever our students gained recognition and presented talks on these studies, which happened many times.”
Expanding his research to the international level, Hinrichs was recognized by the College of North Atlantic Qatar for developing a practical framework for curriculum alignment in grades K-12 in Qatar. His retirement from Oswego only meant he changed venues, moving on to teach with the Cornell Medical College in that Western Asia land. During his four years there, he taught physics and helped teachers with pedagogy and content.
“All this was traceable back to ideas developed in Oswego, with emphasis on inquiry-guided instruction and appropriate assessment tools,” he said. “When we were making such rapid advances in the study of environmental influences of energy production, I was especially grateful for an administration that supported and encouraged our research,” Hinrichs said. “Those were wonderful days professionally and personally. My wife, Jeanne, and I raised our four children by that Great Lake, and we will always be grateful for the many ways people of the college and the city supported us.”
Now, Hinrichs continues to write, teach part time at a community college, mentor Chinese scholars conducting research at the University of Washington and examine current research on his long-time interest in energy and the environment.