Lawrence D. Woolf is a materials physicist and technical fellow/sciences manager in Mission Systems at General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. He received a Ph.D. in low temperature condensed matter physics from the University of California, San Diego in 1980 and a BA in physics (with high distinction) from Rutgers College (with highest honors) in 1975. After a post-doctoral appointment at the Exxon Corporate Research Science Laboratory, Woolf joined General Atomics (GA) in 1982. At GA, he has been involved in the development of thin film coatings and other novel materials, high temperature ceramic superconducting wire, electromagnetic turbulence control components, nuclear thermionic energy conversion, high temperature electrical insulators, thermophotovoltaic energy conversion, electronic properties of graphite fibers, and neutron transmutation doping of silicon. He has been project manager or lead scientist for over 50 programs involving the design, development, and production of a variety of advanced materials.
Since 2007, Woolf has been President and Chairman of the Board of the General Atomics Sciences Education Foundation. In 2010, he initiated the GASSSS program to involve more employees in education outreach; more than 400 have participated. In 2017, he initiated a Foundation partnership with TutorMate, to promote literacy and to help at-risk students learn to read on target by the end of first grade.
He is the author or co-author of 73 scientific publications in the area of materials physics and energy conversion systems, has given 43 scientific presentations, and holds 24 patents. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi, is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, and received the 2004 San Diego Science Alliance Partner of the Year Award. Woolf has been a member of 5 Department of Energy review panels, twice as chairman, and 25 National Science Foundation review panels. He chaired the 2002 Committee of Visitors (COV) Review Panel for the NSF Instructional Materials Development Program, served on the 2005 COV panel, as well as the 2005 Expert Panel on the Future of the NSF Division of Elementary, Secondary, and Informal Education. He was on the steering and writing committees of the Workshop on the Future of Materials Science and Materials Engineering Education. He has performed site reviews on behalf of NSF for the following programs: GEMS Seeds of Science/Roots of Reading (2004); SRI Nanosense Program (2005-2007); National Center for Learning and Teaching in Nanoscale Science and Engineering (2005, as chair); Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS)(2012);National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (2014).
Woolf served on the executive committee of the American Physical Society (APS) Forum on Education (FEd) from 2004-2007 as a Member at Large. He served as FEd Past Chair (and Chair of the Fellowship Committee) from 2011-2012, FEd Chair from 2010-2011, FEd Chair Elect (and Chair of the Program Committee) from 2009-2010, and FEd Vice-Chair (and Chair of the Nominating Committee) from 2008-2009. He was a member of the APS Committee on Education from 2009-2011. He co-edited the Summer 2006 and edited the Summer 2007 and Summer 2008 FEd newsletters. He co-organized 2 FEd sponsored invited sessions on undergraduate materials physics education for the 2008 APS March meeting and organized an invited session on preparing physics students for careers in industry for the 2009 APS March meeting. At the March 2010 APS meeting, he presented a tutorial on Physics Careers in Government Contracting: Defense and Energy and organized a session on Science Literacy, the Nature of Science and Religion. At the April 2011 APS meeting, he participated in a panel on student careers in physics, and organized an invited session on Educating and Exciting the Public about Physics. Woolf was selected to be the APS representative to the US Physics Team Advisory Board in 2009. He was a member of the organizing committee of the Second Graduate Education in Physics Conference, where he organized sessions on preparing graduate students for non-academic careers and co-wrote the final report. He was a member of the APS/AAPT Joint Task Force on Undergraduate Physics Programs that issued the report Phys21: Preparing Physics Students for 21st Century Careers; he also led the development of the Phys21 Supplement: J-TUPP Summary of Background Reports on Careers and Professional Skills. Woolf is currently a member of the APS Best Practices for Undergraduate Physics Programs Task Force and the APS Development Advisory Committee.
Woolf has been actively involved in education outreach activities at GA for grades K-12. He developed the following education modules: It's a Colorful Life; Seeing the Light: The Physics and Materials Science of the Incandescent Light Bulb; Line of Resistance: Using a Graphite Pencil to Explore the Electrical Properties of Materials and Circuits; Staying Alive: The Physics, Mathematics, and Engineering of Safe Driving; and The Seasons: A Tale of the Sun, Earth, and Two Cities. He was one of the co-developers of the Exploration of Materials Science and Chromatics: The Science of Color modules. He has also developed education modules on electric energy bills, the Color of Ice, and the scientific research paper.
He has given over 100 workshops to teachers and students and was one of the developers of the PISCES project to involve college science students and scientists to improve science instruction in elementary school classrooms. Woolf has developed numerous educational materials and posters, particularly in the area of color theory and has written numerous science education related articles. He was curriculum advisor/technical reviewer for the Lawrence Hall of Science FOSS middle school modules on Electronics as well as Force and Motion. Woolf was a curriculum advisor/technical reviewer for all 3 years of the BSCS Science: An Inquiry Approach high school program. He was on the advisory board of Across the Sciences, a multimedia professional development series for high school teachers. Woolf also played an active role in trying to improve California state science education standards, framework, and instructional materials selection. He has been involved in over 250 local, state, and national education activities.
Woolf enjoys hiking, reading, and playing with his grandchildren. He has been a science consultant for numerous screenwriters as part of the Science and Entertainment Exchange, most recently for David Goyer and Alan Taylor. He also enjoyed his experience as an extra on the Big Bang Theory TV show, where his science posters have often been displayed.