Professor of Applied Physics David Mugglin honored as an exemplar

David Mugglin

Professor David Mugglin, winner of Tandon’s Distinguished Teacher Award

Earning a doctoral degree in physics is an arduous and time-consuming task, but Daniel Berkowitz, now preparing to earn his Ph.D. at Yale, took time out of his grueling schedule to write a heartfelt letter about Professor David Mugglin, with whom he studied as an NYU Tandon undergraduate. “In addition to profoundly impacting my understanding of physics, he showed me what it means to be a truly exemplary educator,” Berkowitz, who graduated from Tandon in 2015, wrote. “My greatest experience with Professor Mugglin was when I had the amazing opportunity to conduct research in chaos theory with him for my senior thesis project. Thanks to his guidance during the time period I was working with him, I was able to learn more physics than I ever thought possible. Despite asking him all sorts of questions about mathematically dense and obscure papers I was reading, he would always be there to help me, while simultaneously also helping the legion of students in his introductory-level courses. It takes a truly special educator to be equally as committed to the students in their advanced level classes as to the students in their introductory classes.”

Berkowitz is just one of the many students who remember Mugglin fondly, even long after leaving Tandon. Another, Laisa Khan, wrote: “Professor David Mugglin surpasses any expectation I had of an educator. I took my first two Applied Physics courses with Professor Mugglin during a tumultuous time in my life and subsequently did poorly on my assignments and exams. He created a safe and judgement-free environment for me to talk about my difficulties, and his support and guidance ultimately changed the trajectory of my academic performance.” She concluded, “Professor Mugglin has gone beyond his duties to help me succeed and I am incredibly grateful to have had him as professor.”

Student after student has extolled Mugglin’s patience, empathy, and passion for physics, and that praise comes not just from students but from colleagues as well. “David is meticulous in his preparation, exceptionally skilled in his execution of his varied teaching activities, is a selfless colleague, and is devoted to and beloved by his students,” retired department chair Lorcan Folan says. “I consider him to be a treasure of the department and the school.”

Colleagues point out that the bulk of his students are not applied physics majors and are taking his courses as requirements — making his popularity all the more remarkable. He also serves as the physics point person for the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP), which exposes economically and educationally disadvantaged students to introductory course material before they take their first official college physics class, and fellow professors praise his devotion to that demanding post.

It’s little surprise, therefore, that Mugglin was the recipient of Tandon’s most recent Distinguished Teacher Award, considered among the most prestigious laurels a Tandon instructor can earn and bestowed annually thanks to a gift from late chemical engineer, alum, and board chair Joseph J. Jacobs. Says Department Chair John Di Bartolo: “If a ‘Distinguished Teacher’ is a competent and conscientious lecturer who exhibits an extraordinary level of dedication to his students and his department, then David Mugglin is someone who fits the description.”