Lillian McDermott Death | Lillian McDermott Dead – Obituary

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Lillian McDermott Death | Passed Away | Obituary

Lillian McDermott Death – Dead: A great loss was made known to InsideEko. As friends and families of the deceased are mourning the passing of their loved and cherished Lillian McDermott.

Having heard about this great loss, the family of this individual is passing through pains, mourning the unexpected passing of their beloved.

This departure was confirmed through social media posts made by Twitter users who pour out tributes, and condolences to the family of the deceased.

With tremendous sadness, we have learned of Lillian McDermott’s passing.

Always surrounded by family, an inspiration to colleagues, foundational leader of PER, phenomenal mentor,…


My old colleague, Kathy Harper, wrote this on FB about the recent passing of Physics Education Research (PER) legend Lillian McDermott. I’m reposting here with permission. #iteachphysics and despite, I think, never having had a conversation with Lillian, I know I owe her so much.


Rest in peace Dr. Lillian McDermott. I clearly remember her having to explain to me the difference between research-based and research-verified at my first workshop on tutorials 15 years ago. And discovering I really had a lot of physics left to learn. Still do. #iteachphysics


Dear friends,

We are very sorry to inform you that Lillian McDermott has passed away in recent days.

Lillian C. McDermott (1931-2020)
Professor Emeritus of Physics and Director of the Physics Education Group at the University of Washington. Prof. McDermott received her B.A. from Vassar College and a Ph.D. in experimental nuclear physics from Columbia University (1959). She was appointed to the faculty in the University of Washington Physics Department in 1973 and promoted to Full Professor in 1981.

Prof. McDermott was widely recognized for her leadership in promoting the importance of physics education research as a subdiscipline of physics, and developing research-based curricula that have improved student learning of physics from kindergarten to graduate school. Her foundational work in physics education research has had an international impact on physics education and her record of publications, accomplishments, and awards is second to none in the field. For over 30 years, Prof. McDermott worked to establish research in physics education as a field for scholarly inquiry by physicists. In 1973 she began a new program in which graduate students earn doctorates in physics for research on the learning and teaching of physics. It has since become the longest-lived teacher education program based in a university physics department in the United States. Prof. Mc Dermott established the Physics Education Group at the University of Washington and the group conducts a coordinated
program of research, curriculum development, and instruction. The group has served as a model for discipline-specific educational research and curriculum development, and produced numerous trailblazing articles. Many physicists from around the world have attended the University of Washington to visit, or to work with, Prof. McDermott and many of her graduate students and postdocs have gone on to faculty positions across the globe. The group engaged in developing two sets of research-based instructional materials: Tutorials in Introductory Physics and Physics by Inquiry. Both are widely distributed in the U.S. and have been translated into several other languages.

Prof. McDermott was a fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Among the numerous awards she has received are the 2000 Archie Mahan Prize of the Optical Society of America (OSA) and the 2000 Education Research Achievement Award of the Council of Scientific Society Presidents (CSSP). She was recognized by the AAPT with the Robert A. Millikan Lecture Award in 1990, the Oersted Medal in 2002, shared the APS Education Award with her colleagues in 2008 and the Melba Phillips Award in 2013. In 2014 she was given the University Faculty Lecture Award, one of the highest honors at the University of Washington.

Prof. McDermott has been a lifelong friend of GIREP and a strong supporter of GIREP’s goals in Physics Education Research (PER). Prof. McDermott received the ICPE medal in Udine, Italy during the 2013 GIREP-ICPE Seminar on Quality development of Teacher Education and Training and she was presented with the GIREP Medal in recognition of her longstanding contributions to international physics education in Wroclaw, Poland at the 2015 GIREP-EPEC Congress on Key competences in physics teaching and learning.

Prof. McDermott was a highly respected member of the international physics education community and a special friend of all of us for her open mindedness, collegiality, generosity and humanity. She will always remain in our hearts and she will be sadly missed by all her GIREP friends.

May she rest in peace.

Marisa Michelini and GIREP Board on behalf of the whole GIREP Community

It is with deep sadness that we inform you of the passing of Lillian Christie McDermott. Lillian died in her own home, from natural causes associated with cancer. She left life as she lived it: graciously and surrounded by her family. She is predeceased by her husband, Mark McDermott, and survived by her three children, Bruce (Tina), Melanie (David), and Connie, and four grandchildren.

Lillian grew up in NYC. She attended Vassar College, initially on a music scholarship, and eventually majored in physics. She often attributed her women’s-college experience with allowing her interest in physics to blossom unfettered. She earned a PhD from Columbia University, with a specialization in experimental nuclear physics. She moved to Seattle with Mark when he joined the physics faculty of the University of Washington, where she was barred from employment due to anti-nepotism rules. After working as an instructor at nearby Seattle University, she volunteered with Arnold Arons, then at UW. Lillian and Arnold formed a close and productive professional relationship that eventually – once the anti-nepotism rules were struck down – led to her joining the faculty at the UW and founding the Physics Education Group (UW PEG). The UW PEG was the first organized Physics Education Research group to provide access to a PhD in physics for physics education research.

The field of PER rests on the foundation that Lillian helped build. Her pioneering research continues to be influential to this day. She spent years proselytizing and pushing the community around her to be better. Lillian was a highly effective champion for the role of PER in physics departments. She was driven, tireless, and tenacious. She was also generous with her time, and a wise and supportive mentor to countless scholars, teachers and students around the world.

Lillian was a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the American Physical Society. Among her most significant awards are the 2002 Medal of the International Commission of Physics Education (International Union of Pure and Applied Physics), 2001 Oersted Medal of the American Association of Physics Teachers (the highest award of the AAPT), the 2000 Education Research Award of the Council of Scientific Society Presidents, and the 1990 Millikan Lecture Award of the AAPT. The American Physical Society selected the UW PEG as the recipient of the 2008 Excellence in Education Award.

In addition to her exceptional scholarly achievements, Lillian was also a role model in an era that so desperately needed them. She was a widely-respected physicist who also chose to be a mother and raise children. Her tenacity was built through adversity in an era unwelcoming to women in physics. In accordance with the high value Lillian placed on in-person human interaction, a memorial will be organized when people are able to gather in person to honor her memory. In the meantime, the family has created an online memorial at GatheringUs for personal and professional friends and colleagues to celebrate her life.

Paula Heron, Peter Shaffer, Donna Messina and Suzanne White Brahmia for the UW PEG


We are still working on getting more details about the death, as family statement on the death is yet to be released.

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