Laurie E. McNeil

Photo courtesy of Steve Exum and Endeavors magazine

I am the Bernard Gray Distinguished Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. During 2004-2009 I served as Chair of the Physics and Astronomy Department, and I formerly was the department's Assistant Chair for Advancement. I also served as Interim Chair of the Curriculum in Applied and Materials Sciences (which has now become the Department of Applied Physical Sciences) during academic year 2007/08, and earlier held the post of the Curriculum's Director of Graduate Studies. From October 2000 to April 2003 I served as Chair of the revision of the general education curriculum for all undergraduates in the University. That curriculum was implementated beginning with students entering in Fall 2006. A subsequent revision of the curriculum is currently being implemented. During Fall 2004 I held a Chapman Family Faculty Fellowship, and produced a plan for the transformation of introductory physics teaching at UNC. We have implemented that plan in the calculus-based sequence with the assistance of a grant from NSF. With additional support from NSF we have completed a similar transformation of the introductory sequence for life sciences majors; you may wish to read our account of the transformed course. As a result of those changes (inter alia) in 2020 my department was given an Award for Improving Undergraduate Physics Education by the Committee on Education of the American Physical Society. In 2007-09 I served as a WOWS (Working on Women in Science) Scholar to enhance the representation and success of women in the sciences at UNC-CH. I was also instrumental in establishing UNC-BEST (UNC Baccalaureate Education in Science and Teaching), a joint program between the College of Arts & Sciences and the School of Education to prepare science majors to become high school science teachers.
I have been on the faculty of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill since 1984. I am a condensed matter/materials physicist, specializing in optical spectroscopy of semiconductors and insulators. I have been elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society. During the period 1996-1999 I had the honor of holding a Bowman and Gordon Gray Professorship, for "excellence in inspirational teaching of undergraduate students." I was selected for the permanent Bernard Gray Distinguished Professorship from among those UNC-CH faculty members who have held a Bowman and Gordon Gray Term Professorship. A feature on me was included in an article about the BGG Professorships that appeared in the Fall 2010 issue of the Arts & Sciences Magazine. During 2019-2021 I am serving as a Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer, giving talks about organic semiconductors, women in science, and the physics of music to Sigma Xi chapters at colleges and universities across the country.

In November 2000 I visited Tufts University as the Kathryn A. McCarthy Lecturer in Physics. I was the first recipient of this lectureship, which honors a pioneering female physicist who also served as Provost of Tufts. In 2007 I was similarly honored as the inaugural presenter of the Dorothy K. Daspit Lecture at the H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College Institute at Tulane University. In April 2004 I was one of three people invited by the AAAS to speak at a conference in Buenos Aires (Argentina) as part of their Lecture Series on Women in Science and Engineering. In 2009 I received the Mary Turner Lane Award from the UNC-CH Association of Women Faculty and Professionals for outstanding contributions to the lives of women at Carolina. In 2010 I was similarly honored with a University Award for the Advancement of Women. In 2011 I was recognized by the UNC-CH College of Arts & Sciences with the William F. Little Distinguished Service Award. This award is in memory of Bill Little, former Chair of the UNC Chemistry Department and tireless servant of the university. In 2019 I received the George B. Pegram Award for "Excellence in Physics Education in the Southeast," awarded by the Southeastern Section of the American Physical Society. In 2021 APS named me a Five Sigma Physicist for having "exhibited outstanding advocacy work in addressing science policy issues."

If you want to see what I look like in other settings, click here. An article appeared in the Winter 2003 issue of Endeavors magazine (published by the UNC-CH Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Studies) in which I was quoted extensively on the subject of women in science. In March 2002 I was a member of the U.S. delegation to the IUPAP Conference on Women in Physics, and a few pictures from that conference can be seen here.
I can be reached at:
	Department of Physics and Astronomy
	Phillips Hall  CB #3255
	University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
	Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3255  USA
You may send me e-mail at

Last update: June 23, 2023