Teaching

In the essay “Science, Art, and Play,” Erwin Schrödinger, a physicist and a Nobel laureate best known for his role in the development of quantum mechanics, presents a view of scientific inquiry and scholarly activity in general as play1. He reflects on the purpose of science and the role of science educators

… we are compelled to see the chief and lofty aim of science to-day, as in every other age, in the fact that it enhances the general joy of living. It is the duty of a teacher of science to impart to his listeners knowledge which will prove useful in their professions; but it should also be his intense desire to do it in such a way as to cause them pleasure.

While Schrödinger was speaking from a traditional paradigm in which knowledge is passed directly from a teacher to a student by means of lecturing, his characterization of science as play provides an apt metaphorical framework for the discussion of more modern approaches to teaching. Our job as educators is to show the students how to play, whether by modeling the scientific inquiry in classroom activities or engaging them in research projects. To this end, we should design courses built on goal-oriented, project-based activities through which students can explore on their own under the guidance of an instructor. When students are engaged in activities in which there is something at stake, they more quickly absorb and integrate new information into their pre-existing body of knowledge, and become better problem solvers. A good educator facilitates intellectually challenging experiences and provides opportunities for students to develop their communication and collaboration skills. Just as importantly, we have a task of breaking down our students’ assumptions about who can or should or is capable of partaking in the scholarly play.

The practical challenge for me has been finding the right balance between imparting factual knowledge and allowing for independent inquiry, which depends on the type of the course. In my 100-level courses I focus more on the importance of asking creative questions, the value of making mistakes and learning from them, and the experience of joy of investigation. I believe this is particularly important for attracting minority students who may think they are not “cut out” for science. In my 200- and 300-level courses, I focus more on building the body of knowledge necessary for addressing more advanced problems, strengthening students’ confidence in their ability to tackle these problems, and sharpening their skills for independent inquiry.

My experiences in the classroom have strengthened my belief that doing independent, creative, project-based work is the best way for students to maintain an interest in the material and master it.

1Schrödinger, E. (1957) Science, Theory, and Man. New York: Dover Publications.


FALL 2018 COURSES

NS-0206 Modern Physics
NS-0103 The Science of Space and Time

PAST COURSES

Hampshire College

NS-0338 Thermal Physics                                                                        Spring 2018

NS-0113, Physics of Color                                                             Spring 2017, 2018

NS-0103, The Science of Space and Time                                                  Fall 2017

NS-0208, Science in a Cultural Context                                                      Fall 2017

NS-0213, Symmetries of Nature: An Introduction to                          Spring 2017
Group Theory

NS-0274, Linear Algebra                                                                              Fall 2016

NS-0183/0383, Basic Physics: Quantum Mechanics for the Myriad       Fall 2016

Wellesley College

Physics 101, Einstein’s Century: Physics in the Last 100 Years        Spring 2016

Physics 250H, Independent Study in General Relativity                   Spring 2016

Physics 302, Quantum Mechanics                                                              Fall 2015

Physics 108, Principles and Applications of Electricity, Magnetism, & Optics
Lab                                                                                                             Spring 2014

Physics 106, Fundamentals of Electricity, Magnetism, & Optics
Lecture                                                                                                     Fall 2012, 2015
                                                                                        Spring 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016
Lab                                                                                                      Spring 2014, 2015

Physics 104, Fundamentals of Mechanics
Lecture                                                                                          Fall 2012, 2013, 2014
                                                                                                        Summer 2013, 2015
                                                                                                                     Spring 2013
Lab                                                                                                          Fall 2013, 2014

Boston University

WR100, Writing Seminar, Space and Time: Common        Fall 2009, 2010, 2011
Sense & Beyond                                                                                                                           

 

The finale of the project-based projectile motion lab for introductory mechanics course at Wellesley College.

OUTREACH

In May of 2108, I held a workshop titled The Physics of Color with the assistance of Mirela Kulović at Gallery 263 as a part of the ArtWeek festival. I make occasional visits to summer programs for high school students.