FSU Professor Receives Award for Excellence from Maryland Board of Regents

Release Date: 05/14/2002

Frostburg State University physics professor Dr. George Plitnik's research of musical instruments has been recognized by the University System of Maryland Board of Regents with its Award for Excellence in Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity.

In granting Plitnik the award, the Regents said, "Plitnik's research, related to musical instrumentation, has influenced the design and manufacture of French horns currently used by various symphonic groups. His research, published in encyclopedia articles and peer-reviewed journals, has earned him the respect of his peers worldwide. Plitnik has also given students the opportunity to participate in his scholarship. In fact, a Frostburg honors student co-presented research on pipe-organ reeds with Plitnik during an international conference in Rome."

This year, the Regents recognized 14 faculty members from institutions across the USM for their outstanding contributions. Each recipient will receive $1,000 and a plaque of recognition for the honor. The nominees must have served as a USM faculty member for at least five years. Plitnik has been at FSU since 1970.

"I'm gratified to receive the honor, even though it took me 32 years to get to this point," Plitnik said.

Plitnik said a variety of his research interests came together in recent years, allowing him to publish papers on topics he had been researching throughout his career.

Working with the Lawson French Horn Company in Boonsboro, Md., starting in the late 1980s, he studied how changes in the French horn mouthpiece can affect sound and how the musician perceives the instrument. He enriched that experience with research done on equipment at the Laboratoire d'Acoustique in LeMans, France. He published a paper on that research in 1999.

While on a two-year sabbatical in Japan in 1991, he began researching clarinet reeds, but a lifelong interest in pipe organs, among other issues, led him to redirect his study to the reeds in the pipe organs. After returning from Japan, for about five years in the late 1990s, Plitnik worked at FSU with senior physics students on the pipe organ reed research. A paper detailing that research was published in 2000.

He is continuing his research in organs, including a sabbatical in Germany in 1999, collaboratively researching organ reeds with Judith Angster. That research, which has yet to be published, had a side benefit. Plitnik visited Hungary to interview Angster's father, who had owned a pipe organ factory there before the Soviets invaded and imprisoned him because he owned a business. Plitnik questioned him about the generations of experience in pipe organs his family business represented and wrote about it for the International Society of Organ Builders Journal.

Plitnik was given the FSU Faculty Achievement Award in 2000 for his research, although that is only a fraction of Plitnik's work. Along with English professor Dr. Paul LaChance, Plitnik is examining the relationship between science and spirituality. He's working on a book on acoustics and trying to create a cooperative agreement with a university in the Ukraine, which has high quality equipment and knowledgeable scientists, to study superconductivity at high temperatures. He has also received a grant from Maryland to teach optics and has started work on a project for a company in Pittsburgh.

In addition, there are Plitnik's personal interests. He hopes to travel more, visiting other countries long enough to get to know the people. He plans to finish the house he has been building and expanding since he moved in back in 1972. Plus, there are the pipe organs, from the first old theatre organ he rescued to the numerous pieces and parts of other pipe organs he has picked up over the years. From those, an impressive organ has been growing in his home, with ranks and pipes and sound effects gleaned from a number of sources over the years.

"As recommended by the Regents Faculty Award Committee, these 14 educators represent the standard to which every person involved in higher education should aspire," said Nathan A. Chapman, Jr., chairman of the Board. "Their dedication, their spirit, and most importantly, their belief in the development of the mind have combined to produce remarkable results. The Board is pleased to bestow its highest honor upon them."

The Board of Regents established the Faculty Awards in 1995 to publicly recognize distinguished performance by educators and researchers within the University System. The Regents Faculty Award Committee, made up of faculty from the USM's research and comprehensive institutions as well as one member from the System office staff, receives nominations from the president of each institution, along with the nominees' portfolios. The portfolios provided documentation of outstanding performance, during the last three years, in the award category for which the faculty member was nominated.