Professor Kevin Bedell, John H. Rourke Chair of Phyiscs
Professor Kevin Bedell is the holder of the John H. Rourke Chair of Physics at Boston College. The chair was created through the generous bequest of John Rourke '41, a local pharmacist in Brighton.
As the holder of this chair, Professor Bedell has access to discretionary funds that allow him to provide additional resources to students in the Physics Department.
When asked how he and his department have benefited from this gift, Professor Bedell cited, among other things, the establishment of a departmental colloquia that brings prominent speakers to BC, including six scientists who lectured at BC shortly prior to being named Nobel Prize laureates. (The BC Physics Department has since been aptly nicknamed the "Road to Stockholm.") Students are able to mingle among these cutting-edge researchers and to learn directly from them.
Additionally, the funds have enabled Bedell to broaden the horizons of both graduate and undergraduate students by providing the money necessary to attend academic conferences in the study of physics. The effect of increased funding for the undergraduate physics program has been dramatic. Students feel like a greater part of the physics community both at BC and in the academic world. They have also developed a greater sense of confidence because they know that the faculty believes in them. Bucking an overall trend in U.S. science education the number of physics majors at BC has been steadily increasing.
Above all else, however, Professor Bedell expressed that the most priceless opportunity that the Rourke bequest offers is that of academic freedom to pursue and research an idea. "Government funding is too restricted now. In order to obtain funding from the National Science Foundation a project already has to be about 90 percent complete. The net result of this is that it doesn't allow for creativity." He pointed out that some of the most important inventions that are used daily, such as the laser, came from ideas that someone had ample resources to pursue their ideas and to bring them to fruition. He emphasized that one of the most critical goals of Boston College is to foster independent thought and research among its students. This can best be done by reducing BC's dependency on government funds and finding generous benefactors who will provide the gifts necessary to ensure the success of future scientists.
"Physics is a science that serves society and because of this it is in line with the Jesuit ideals of service. Physics is a tool that smart people use to change society. The research that is done at BC has very practical applications that will one day help society at large."
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