Reception honours Bob Prince, University Professor

“When I told my family that I had been made a University Professor, they looked at me as if to ask, ‘What have you been all these years, then?’” joked newly-appointed University Professor Bob Prince.

Left: Bob Prince

Prince, who was dean of the Faculty of Pure & Applied Science from 1994 to 2001, was speaking to a group of York Department of Physics & Astronomy colleagues on April 15, at a reception that followed a colloquium with presenter George V. Eleftheriades of the University of Toronto.

After a typically humble response to physics Professor Marko Horbatsch’s accolade about his work, Prince then turned to deliver a toast to Eric Hessels, York’s Canada Research Chair in Atomic Physics, who has recently been awarded an NSERC Steacie Fellowship. (See the March 16 issue of  YFile.)                                                                    

Horbatsch, who was Chair of the Department of Physics & Astronomy between 1998 and 2002, spoke of Bob Prince’s long-standing career as a highly successful first-year physics lecturer, describing him as a professor who loved to use classroom demonstrations, and enjoyed having groups of students clustered around his office discussing physics.

Right: Marko Horbatsch

“Bob built up a surface physics and material science laboratory, specializing in high-tech materials related to space. He attracted funding from strategic programs [Natural Science & Engineering Research Council of Canada and Ontario Centres of Excellence], and from the private sector. He maintained this research activity while being department Chair and dean.”

Prince served as Chair of Physics & Astronomy, said Horbatsch, “during which time he oversaw the introduction of the highly successful Space and Communication Sciences program, which was York’s first step towards high-quality applied science undergraduate programs.

“During his many-year term as dean, Bob oversaw the hiring of a substantial number of faculty and helped secure their funding through programs such as NSERC, PREA, CFI, CRC and other programs. He was involved first-hand in the design of buildings that helped the departments of computer science and chemistry to establish themselves visibly on campus.”

Horbatsch praised several of Prince’s achievements, including the role he played in establishing applied mathematics in FPAS and in initiating the establishment of an engineering program in York’s departments of Computer Science, Physics & Astronomy, and Earth & Space Science and Engineering.

“The latter happened under extremely tight financial circumstances. His deanship occurred in times of great change, as the Ontario university system migrated from a predominantly government grant base to an at least 50 per cent tuition-based principle. This system put laboratory-based and intense research-based undergraduate education streams that are concentrated in FPAS under extreme stress, and required Bob Prince not only to manoeuvre very carefully, but also to be an expert in the new ways that the provincial government handed out targeted funds.”

Currently, Prince is simultaneously director of York’s Engineering Program and Chair of Physics & Astronomy, overseeing the forthcoming accreditation process of the engineering programs.

Left: Eric Hessels

In congratulating Hessels on his fellowship, Prince noted that the NSERC news release referred to Hessels as “The Master of Anti-Matter”. Prince then laughingly dubbed him “The Master of Understatement”, in view of Hessels’ own statement in the news release, which said, “anti-hydrogen is amazingly difficult to create.” Prince explained that the NSERC Steacie Fellowship is one of Canada’s top science and engineering honours, and he said York is fortunate to have a scientist of such high calibre on board.