Michel Pleimling, Professor of Physics and Director of the Academy of Integrated Science, is the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs in the College of Science.
Pleimling, who hails from the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg, received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the Universität des Saarlandes in Germany. After holding postdoctoral research positions at the RWTH Aachen (Germany), the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (Germany), and the Université Henri Poincaré Nancy (France), he received in 2002 the academic degree of Privatdozent from the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg. He joined Virginia Tech in 2006 as an Associate Professor of Physics and was promoted to Professor of Physics in 2014. In the same year he joined the Academy of Integrated Science in the College of Science as the Leader of the Integrated Science Curriculum. In 2015 he was appointed Director of the Academy of Integrated Science, and he continues serving in this position. From 2017 until 2020 he served the College of Science as the inaugural Director of Inclusion and Diversity, before joining in Fall 2020 the Dean’s Office as Associate Dean.
Pleimling’s research, which is focused on Statistical Physics and Condensed Matter Physics, has resulted in more than 140 peer-reviewed publications. He is the author of a textbook on aging and non-equilibrium phase transitions and the editor of two books on the same topic. He has been the research advisor of 17 Ph.D. students and of 32 undergraduate students. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the Army Research Office, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and the European Commission. In 2015 he was elected Fellow of the American Physical Society “For seminal and sustained contributions to computational statistical physics, specifically his investigations of complex systems far from thermal equilibrium, and in-depth understanding of non-equilibrium relaxation and physical aging phenomena.”
Pleimling has served his scientific community in various ways. From 2011 until 2014 he served as Member-at-Large of the Executive Committee of the Southeastern Section of the American Physical Society (SESAPS), before being elected in 2015 to the Chair line, which culminated with him serving as Section Chair in 2017, of that regional section of the American Physical Society. He is an Independent Expert helping the European Research Agency with tasks related to research and technological development. Between 2012 and 2017 he served as Vice-Chair of the Physics Panel for the
Marie Curie Individual Fellowships. He is the organizer of numerous scientific meetings, workshops, and focus sessions, and currently serves on the Editorial Board of Scientific Reports (Nature). He is reviewer for the leading research journals in the field and has been recognized in 2016 as an Outstanding Referee for the journals of the American Physical Society and in 2019 as an EPL Distinguished Referee. At the university level he served between 2016 and 2020 on the Stakeholder Committee of the Economical and Sustainable Materials Destination Area.
Pleimling’s teaching excellence has been recognized through different teaching awards. In 2016 he has received both the College of Science Certificate of Teaching Excellence and the University Academy of Teaching Excellence Alumni Teaching Award, before receiving the Dr. Carroll B. Shannon Excellence in Teaching Award in 2017.
Dr. Pleimling has led various pedagogical innovations at departmental, college, and university levels. He created the undergraduate course Mathematical Methods in Physics and established, as Chair of the Undergraduate Committee of the Department of Physics, the different options for the Bachelor of Arts in Physics as well as the Minor in Biological Physics. As the College of Science representative (from 2013 until 2019) of the University Curriculum Committee for Liberal Education (now called the University Curriculum Committee for General Education) he has helped creating the university-wide Pathways to General Education program. Together with Prof. John Tyson from the Department of Biological Sciences he developed the Integrated Science Curriculum, a two-year course and lab sequence for majors in the College of Science that covers the fundamentals of Chemistry, Physics, and Biology integrated with Calculus and Linear Algebra (this sequence has been highlighted in Popular Mechanics as “The Future of Science Classrooms”). He has been part of faculty teams that created different new undergraduate programs, including the interdisciplinary majors in Systems Biology and Computational Modeling and Data Analytics (CMDA) as well as the interdisciplinary minors in Materials and Society and in Data and Decisions. During his tenure as Director of the Academy of Integrated Science, the number of majors in the three undergraduate degree programs CMDA, Nanoscience, and Systems Biology, has grown from 100 majors in 2015 to 750 majors in 2020.