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Jeff Groff ’01 named 2013 Honors alumnus

Stephanie Madsen with Jeff Groff
March 29, 2013

Dr. Jeff Groff, assistant professor of Physics at Shepherd University and 2001 alumnus of McDaniel, is the 2013 recipient of the College Scholar Alumni Award in recognition of his leadership for change in both local and global communities.

Groff credited his experiences in the Honors Program and at McDaniel as the reason he was back on campus to accept the award.

“The Honors Program and McDaniel gave me a love of learning, an intellectual curiosity even outside of my field, and lifelong friends,” Groff said as he accepted the award at the March 23 Honors Lecture also featuring Robert Siegler, Teresa Heinz professor of cognitive psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, speaking about “The Development of Numerical Understanding.”

Recognition as an agent of positive change “reminds me of how much more I can do,” said Groff, flanked by screens showing the famous images of Earth as a miniscule pale blue dot taken from 3.7 million miles away by Voyager I as it left our solar system.

Groff explained to a packed audience in McDaniel Lounge, the picture of Earth is one of 60 shots, know as the “family portraits,” Voyager I took on Feb. 14, 1990, requested by astronomer Carl Sagan and comprising the final photographs taken by either of the two Voyager spacecraft that continue, 36 years after their 1977 launch, to send back data from the far reaches of space.

“This is both a picture and a lesson,” Groff said. “I see it as a chance to ponder the scale of the picture – and to recheck my priorities.” 

Groff, who graduated Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude with departmental honors in Physics and a minor in Chemistry, earned a master’s and Ph.D. in Applied Science with a specialization in computational biophysics from the College of William & Mary.

During his years at McDaniel, he made his mark on the Green Terror track and field team, earning Centennial Conference medals in the decathlon (2000 and 2001) and in the discus throw (1999). Groff still holds his place in athletic record books as an All-Time Top 10 Performer in two events:  in the 55-meter event (second place) and in the 60-meter (first place). His outstanding performance and athletic record earned you the Steve Robert Wilson ’75 Memorial Award presented at Honors Convocation.

He has received grants totaling over $78,000, including a prestigious NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium Innovation Grant and a NASA West Virginia Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (NASA WV EPSCoR) Innovation Grant, in part, to purchase lab equipment for developing new hands-on laboratory exercises that use physical principles to study biological phenomena and systems.

His mentorship of students engaged in research has resulted in three publications in Shepard’s research journal, and currently, he is co-author, with one of his undergraduate research students, of an article for submission to a peer-reviewed international publication.

Groff promotes renewable energy and environmental sustainability and has forged connections with Shepherd’s Environmental Studies faculty to use electronic sensors coupled to digital electronics for environmental monitoring and remote sensing applications. Along with a colleague, he ventured as far west as Nevada with students during a two-week summer trip to study the geological, environmental, and cultural anthropology of the Greater Colorado Plateau. He now brags that he can name all the principle strata of the Grand Canyon from Kaibab to the ancient Vishnu Schist.

He is married to Amanda Lofton, class of 2002, and they have a baby daughter, Evelyn.