Mats A Selen



Mats A Selen

Primary Research Area

  • Physics Education
303 Loomis Laboratory


Professor Mats Selen earned a B.S. in physics from the University of Guelph (1982), an M.Sc. in physics from Guelph (1983), and an M.A. in physics from Princeton University in 1985. He received his Ph.D. in physics from Princeton in 1989. He was a research associate at the Cornell Electron Storage Ring (CESR) at Cornell University from 1989-1993. He joined the Department of Physics at Illinois in 1993 as an assistant professor, was promoted to associate professor in 1997, and to full professor in 2001.

Professor Selen is an extraordinary teacher, and his decision to accept a university position, rather than to remain a permanent staff researcher at a major particle physics facility, was motivated by his commitment to science education. Since coming to Illinois, he has been a prime mover behind the massive curriculum revision of the calculus-based introductory physics courses (Physics 211-214), and he was the first lecturer in the new sequence. He developed an undergraduate "discovery" course where freshmen create their own physics demonstrations — designed for grade school children — to introduce then to the fun and excitement of physics. He also started the Physics Van, our department's award-winning community outreach program and is a regular on local morning television as "The Whys Guy."

Already an international leader in experimental particle physics, Professor Selen has made significant contributions to four distinct research areas: (1) the measurement of the D* branching ratios and an analysis of D* mesons that set a new reference standard; (2) study of the charm quark and contributions to current understanding of charmed particles and their decays; (3) radiative and hadronic D decays; and (4) innovations in particle identification and data acquisition, including the invention of an entirely new method, Cherenkov correlated timing (CCT), which can separate from K mesons, up to momenta of 4 GeV/c. This novel idea has been successfully tested at the KEK high energy physics laboratory in Japan.

Profressor Selen's expertise in data acquisition and his work on Charm Physics was recongized by the American Physical Society when became a Fellow in 2006 "For leadership and hardware contributions to the CLEO collaboration and contributions to the understanding of charm hadrinic decays and excited states"

Selen is currently turning his research interest to astrophysics, joining the Dark Energy Survey (DES) collaboration and starting work in the field of supernova physics.

Research Statement

Elementary Particle Physics and Astrophysics
The main thrusts of both high-energy physics and astrophysics research are to determine the form and strength of the fundamental interactions in nature and to determine the properties of the particles that enter into these interactions. My group has played a key role on the CLEO experiment at the Cornell Electron Storage Ring since I started at the University of Illinois in 1993, and we are currently ramping up an effort on the Dark Energy Survey astrophysics experiment where we will study the origin of cosmic expansion

Teaching Honors

  • U.S. Professor of the Year, 2016, aponsored by the Carnegie Foundation and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). This prestigious national award is bestowed annually on one professor from each of four institutional categories. (November 19, 2015)
  • RCSA's Transformational Research and Excellence in Education (TREE) Award, 2015 (March 9, 2015)
  • Collins Award for Innovative Teaching, 2001 (2001)
  • Everitt Award for Teaching Excellence, 1997 (1997)
  • APS Excellence in Education Award 2013
  • Fellow, American Physical Society, 2006
  • Xerox Award for Faculty Research, 2002
  • Honorary Knight of St. Pats College of Engineering, UIUC, 1997
  • Cottrell Scholar, 1996
  • A.P. Sloan Fellow, 1995
  • NSF Presidential Faculty Fellow, 1995
  • Junior Xerox Award for Faculty Research, 1995
  • Outstanding Junior Investigator, US Dept. of Energy, 1994

Semesters Ranked Excellent Teacher by Students

Spring 2020PHYS 211
Spring 2019PHYS 102
Spring 2018PHYS 101
Fall 2017PHYS 101
Fall 2016PHYS 211
Spring 2015PHYS 211
Spring 2014PHYS 211
Fall 2013PHYS 211
Spring 2013PHYS 211
Fall 2012PHYS 211
Spring 2012PHYS 211
Fall 2011PHYS 211
Fall 2010PHYS 211
Fall 2009PHYS 211
Fall 2008PHYS 212
Spring 2006PHYS 123
Fall 2005PHYS 211
Spring 2005PHYS 123
Spring 2004PHYS 123
Spring 2003PHYS 101
Fall 2002PHYS 303
Fall 2001PHYS 303
Spring 2000PHYS 101

Related news

  • Accolades
  • Physics Education Research
  • PER

University of Illinois physics professor Mats Selen has been named 2016 U.S. Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). This prestigious national award is bestowed annually on one professor from each of four institutional categories; Selen is recognized as the Outstanding Doctoral and Research Universities Professor.

The award recognizes the highest level of excellence in undergraduate teaching and mentoring, a scholarly approach to teaching and learning, and significant contributions to undergraduate education at the home institution and community and to the teaching profession.

  • Education

Professor Mats Selen was recently appointed associate head for undergraduate programs at Physics Illinois. His predecessor, Professor Kevin Pitts, who held the position since August 2010, is now serving as the College of Engineering’s associate dean for undergraduate programs. Selen’s appointment was announced January 22 by Department Head and Professor Dale Van Harlingen, just hours after the College of Engineering had announced its appointment of Pitts.

Selen said he expects a straightforward transition into the new position.

“Kevin did a great job in this role and he has handed over a very smooth operation. We are working together to make the transition as seamless as possible for students, faculty, and staff,” comments Selen. “Kevin and I are in close communication as he makes his transition to associate dean. He isn’t far away—just down the road,”

  • Education

"Well I have to confess, I was always in the closet about teaching. I did all my research, but I secretly always loved teaching as much as I did research, probably more..."