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Honors College Director

Honors College Director

Learn more about Prof. William Dorland, Honors College Director

William Dorland studies turbulent, ionized matter, with applications in nuclear fusion, heliospheric dynamics, and plasma astrophysics. He received his B.S. in Physics (with Special and Highest Honors) from the University of Texas at Austin in 1988. The same year, he also won the campus Foosball tournament and the equivalent of the Spirit of Maryland award. Moving to Princeton University, he earned a doctorate in Astrophysical Sciences in 1993 and a master’s degree in Public Administration from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs (focusing on international science policy). As a DOE Fusion Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for Fusion Studies in Austin, he was part of a team that found critical errors in calculations underpinning a proposed fusion reactor, helping to prevent a $10 billion international debacle.

Dr. Dorland and his wife (Professor Sarah Penniston-Dorland, UMD Geology) have a daughter Kendall at Catonsville Senior High School. In 1998, the family moved to Maryland so Sarah could accept a fellowship at Johns Hopkins University. At that time, Dr. Dorland joined University of Maryland’s Institute for Research in Electronic and Applied Physics. He was appointed an assistant professor in the Department of Physics in 2001, promoted to associate professor in 2005 and full professor in 2009. He also holds appointments as Reader (associate professor) at Imperial College, London and as a Wolfgang Pauli Fellow at the University of Vienna. Dr. Dorland is currently a visiting professor at Oxford University (in association with Merton College).

As a director of the Maryland Center of Multiscale Plasma Dynamics, Dorland co-organized meetings at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, the Aspen Center for Physics, and the Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics at UCLA. In 2009, he co-organized the Prospects in Theoretical Physics summer program at the Institute for Advanced Study in New Jersey. In 2010, he co-directed a month-long physics program at the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences of Cambridge University.

The Council on International Education Exchange gave Dr. Dorland a special award in 2000 for his unique contributions to study abroad programs worldwide. He earned fellowship in the American Physical Society in 2005, and the Richard A. Ferrell Distinguished Faculty Fellowship from the Department of Physics in 2008. In 2009, he received the Department of Energy’s E.O Lawrence Award for scientific leadership in the development of comprehensive computer simulations of plasma turbulence, and specific predictions, insights, and improved understanding of turbulent transport in magnetically-confined plasma experiments. This distinction carried a gold medal and a $50,000 prize.

In addition to his physics research, Dr. Dorland has a keen interest in teaching. Here at the University of Maryland, he co-developed and taught graduate courses in scientific computing (AMSC663/664). In 2007, he co-developed and taught Physics for Decision Makers: The Global Energy Crisis, a Marquee course to instruct non-science majors in perhaps the world’s most pressing challenge. In spring 2011, he piloted an Honors seminar on nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons policy. That course is now offered as an I-series course.

Citing his own transformative experience as an Honors student at the University of Texas, Dr. Dorland in 2008 turned his energies to directing the University of Maryland Honors College. Offering 400 courses per year from 200 faculty exclusively to 4,200 of Maryland’s most academically talented undergraduates, the Honors College is home to Maryland’s seven highly acclaimed living and learning programs for students with exceptional academic talents. Since taking this administrative position, Dr. Dorland has published more than twenty physics papers in refereed journals and supervised eighty-one sections of Honors 100.

With the Chordoma Foundation, Dr. Dorland initiated and co-sponsored the first conference for chordoma patients and continues to support the foundation’s battle against this malignant but extremely rare cancer of the skull and spine.