By Cathleen Jeanty, Bellarmine University 2014 Leadership Award
Dr. Lawrence Gettleman, a longtime professor and scientist, received the 2014 Leadership Award at the Louisville Regional Science & Engineering Fair during the 50th Anniversary Awards Ceremony on March 8. This honor was conferred by Dr. Thomas H. Crawford, LRSEF Emeritus Board member and last year’s winner.
Dr. Gettleman, DMD, MSD is a professor of prosthodontics & biomaterials at the University of Louisville’s School of Dentistry. He trained at Rutgers, Harvard, and St. Louis Universities, and served in the US Public Health Service, doing laboratory and clinical trials on dental materials. He has been on the full-time faculties at Harvard, LSU, Gulf South Research Institute, and the University of Louisville. He has also maintained a dental practice, and has been the principal investigator of seven NIH research grants and co-investigator on many more. He has over 80 journal publications,
13 book chapters, 144 research abstracts, and three US patents.
He has led an interesting life, but his success did not come from nowhere. It began when he won the grand prize at the South Florida Regional Science Fair in 1958; this was the beginning of a prolific life in science.
“I was fortunate to attend the Florida State University Science Camp in 1957 which gave me an introduction to all of the science, mathematics & engineering introductory courses that a major university had to offer (there was not much air conditioning in Tallahassee back then, though). I formulated an idea on the physics of polarized light and researched the subject in the FSU library and at the libraries back on Miami Beach. I built the project in my senior year, generated data, and entered the Miami Beach High School Science Fair, then progressed to the South Florida Regional Science Fair. I was selected for the National Science Fair in Flint, Michigan, where I won 4th place in physical sciences. The apparatus I built measured polarized light that was reflected from non-metallic liquids as a function of the incident angle of the light.”
Larry became involved in the Greater New Orleans Regional Science Fair in 1983 and served as president in 1989-90. He joined the Board of Directors of the Louisville Regional Science Fair (LRSF) in 1990 after moving to Kentucky. Dr. Gettleman served as first vice president of the LRSF from 2000 through 2012. He edited and published the awards program booklet from 1993 through 2013.
In 1994 when plans to host the International Science & Engineering Fair (ISEF) in New Orleans had fallen through, Dr. Gettleman rekindled the idea in Louisville and formed a committee to bring ISEF to Kentucky. He made a successful presentation to Science Service in 1995 and ISEF was held here in 1997, the most successful to date. He helped to bring six Nobel Prize Laureates to judge at ISEF for the first time (now an ongoing tradition). Approximately $800,000 in cash was raised along with in-kind contributions of $700,000. The l997 ISEF attracted first-time title sponsorship by Intel and the event yielded a cash surplus of $300,000 for the local committee. These funds were used to establish the Kentucky Science Fair Endowment, which has supported science fairs in Kentucky with annual grants since 1998.
On his receiving the 2014 Leadership Award, he had this to say:
“I have worked hard on science fairs since 1983 in New Orleans and 1990 in Louisville. I am gratified to see it grow from a few hundred projects here to nearly 600 in two local fairs, and many more around the Commonwealth. This growth was aided by the establishment of the Kentucky Science Fair Endowment, funded by the surprising profit from our hosting of the international fair in 1997. Competing in and winning a science fair gives a young person much incentive to go further and think creatively. The Louisville Regional and the Manual/Meyzeek Science Fairs have grown greatly in the past 20 years, due to the hard and persistent work of our boards of directors and other supporters. I am one of many interested in the same thing: giving back, by promoting STEM in our young people. It is the future of the city, state, nation, and the world’s populations.”
Dr. Gettleman also helps to sponsor three special awards annually at LRSEF. He thanks all members of past and present science fair boards, science teachers, and parents who have encouraged inquisitive students to innovate in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.