Alumnus wins Caltech teaching prize

By Eoijin Choi

The California Institute of Technology presented professor Paul Asimow ’87 with the Richard P. Feynman Prize for Excellence in Teaching.

Asimow said he felt surprised and gratified “because I care about teaching and try to do it as well as I can, and it gives me a chance to reflect on teachers that influenced me.”

A professor of geology and geochemistry at Caltech, Asimow received the annual prize for “exceptional energy, originality and ability to explain complicated concepts effectively,” according to the award citation. Students from Asimow’s advanced petrology class nominated him for the award.

The nominations can be submitted by any member of the Caltech community and are weighed to help the committee decide. Then, the prize is kept secret until it is announced at an all-Institute faculty meeting. When Asimow almost forgot about the meeting on Feb. 27, the chairman walked him to the meeting to make sure he attended.

“It would have worked except we showed up an hour early,” Asimow said. The chairman had to “let me in on the prize and ask me to act surprised.”

Asimow has taught at Caltech for 13 years after attending Harvard School and Harvard College, where he began studying Earth and planetary science.

At school, Asimow was influenced most by science teacher John Feulner and math teacher Beverly Feulner.

“It was a spectacular middle and high school experience,” Asimow said. “I have no question that it not only gave me the foundation to succeed in whatever field I chose, but also a particular inspiration towards high-end teaching.”