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Randall Harper Research Award

The WKU Department of Physics and Astronomy invites students to compete annually for the Randall Harper Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Research in Physics & Astronomy.


Undergraduate students who have been involved in research projects, either on the WKU campus or through summer research experiences elsewhere, may apply for this award. 

At the time of the application, the candidate must:

  • have completed or be currently enrolled in PHYS 321, and
  • have given at least one presentation (oral or poster) as lead/primary author of his/her research work to a university-wide, state-wide, or national conference.

Award Details

An awards committee of faculty from the Department of Physics and Astronomy will judge all complete applications submitted by the deadline and select a winner who will receive a framed certificate and $100 at the annual Ogden College Awards Ceremony.

Application Deadline

The deadline for the 2023 competition has been extended to Sunday, March 5, at midnight.  Please direct any questions about this award to Doug.Harper@wku.edu

Tips for Successful Application

A complete application will consist of providing:

  • identifying information,
  • a list of citations for published and/or presented research work (author list, title, bibliographic details of publications and/or details of conference presentations), and
  • a single page essay describing the applicant's contribution to the research being considered for this award.  

The committe will assess the quality of the research, as described in the essay, based on significance, effortoriginality, and creativity.  You should write in an informal style using first person to describe your contributions to the research (see example).  The committe wants to see both that you understand the big picture features of the research project and that you specifically have contributed to the success of the project.

How to Apply

To apply, please download and complete the appliction using the button below and submit the application via email to Doug.Harper@wku.edu

Apply Now 

Past Winners

About Dr. Randall Harper 

Dr. Randall Harper, ca 1989Dr. Randall Lee Harper, Jr., an Allen County, Kentucky native, graduated from WKU in 1983 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and Physics.

As an undergraduate student, Randy spearheaded Dr. Bill Buckman's research contract on silicon on sapphire for the United States Air Force.  He later earned his Ph.D. from North Carolina State University where he published several papers during his dissertation research.

Dr. Harper continued his legacy on the Hill as an assistant professor of Physics. During his short time on the faculty he was developing a laboratory and research program in solid state physics.  After a battle with leukemia, Randall passed away on February 24, 1991, at the age of 29.

Following his passing, The Society of Physics Students, as well as Dr. Doug Humphrey, worked together to establish the Dr. Randall Harper Memorial Scholarship Fund. Through this fund, Dr. Harper’s legacy continues by supporting a scholarship as well as the Award for Outstanding Research in Physics & Astronomy.


 A community of faculty, staff, and students engaged in better understanding the physical world. 

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 Last Modified 3/3/23