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Here are the rules - April 14, 2010 at 10:18
Dave Avatar
San Marcos, Texas
431 Posts

Hi Everyone,

    With outstanding chapter advisor nominations coming in to SPS, we thought we would have a contest to tell us about the best professor you've known.  Tell us about the best professor you've ever known.  This could be someone you took a class from, or someone you worked with outside of class.  Be sure to tell us what made this person special.  The best entry, as judged by The Nucleus staff, will receive a fuzzy photon plush in celebration of LaserFest.


Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value -- Albert Einstein

Replies to Here are the rules

Re: Here are the rules - April 19 2010 9:37
Society of Physics...
293 Posts

One of my favorites was Vincent Genusa...He always was impeccably prepared for class, really knew how to present a lecture, and when he would say the word "prodigious" (it seemed like he found a reason to include that word about once a week) there was occasionally spittle involved, but you knew he was getting excited about the physics or the physicist, or both...

My sister always told me that his astronomy class was her favorite class in all of her college career (she has her doctorate in what used to be called Family and Consumer Sciences now). I remember asking him after I first met him what if atoms were little bitty worlds each with people on them and everything, and he quickly responded: "How would you test that hypothesis?"

Anyway, I miss him.

Adjunct Professor of Physics, Editor of The Physics Teacher, and GWU SPS Chapter Advisor

Re: Re: Vincent Genusa - August 21 2010 10:17
Chey Cil
1 Posts

His astronomy class was the best.  There was the standard use of the telescopes in the Observatory, but during the summer he would take a small group out past the city lights into the farm fields and observe the night sky or a meteor shower.  

He would talk so passionately about the subject matter that he would get absorbed in his lectures but frequently stop and ask "Are you with me?" or "Okay so far?"  He truly wanted to pass on his knowledge to his students.

Re: Re: Re: Vincent Genusa - August 26 2010 2:05
Society of Physics...
293 Posts

I'm so glad you mentioned that aspect as well...When did you take astronomy from him?

Adjunct Professor of Physics, Editor of The Physics Teacher, and GWU SPS Chapter Advisor

Re: Re: Here are the rules - August 26 2010 5:42
Becky White
1 Posts

Yes, Gary, Dr. Genusa's astronomy class was great! It bacame a point of pride for me (and others in the class I think) to be able to answer the rapid-fire questions he would pose. I found that I really studied and worked hard to learn in his class because he made me want to know more.
One memory I have is that as I took astronomy in my senior college year, my younger brother, Gary was taking a physics class of some sort with Dr. Genusa as a high school student.  Based on his comments (probably better left unsaid), I got the feeling he much preferred teaching college students rather than high school students. :)
Dr. Genusa was a great teacher and we have too few of those in higher education.

Re: Here are the rules - June 09 2010 5:30
Justin Boyar
1 Posts

Paul Haugen Professor of Physics at Scottsdale Community College  
I went into Professor Haugen's University Physics I class kind of scared and intimidated by physics and not knowing whether I had what it takes to succeed in the physical sciences at all, but after I sat through his first lecture I was hooked. Professor Haugen was so passionate about physics that I would go to his class and just be amazed by watching him explain new concepts and work problems on the board. After class, Mr. Haugen used to help me and many other students in his office almost every day with homework and extra examples of concepts from his previous lecture to help us with areas that we needed improvement in. I would go home and study for hours, because I was so interested in what I was learning and I felt inspired to be like Paul Haugen some day. Students use to line up outside his door after class to ask questions or just talk with him about physics or mathematics. Professor Haugen inspired me to change my major to physics and hopefully teach after graduation.

Re: Here are the rules - June 09 2010 10:52
Tricia Avanzado
1 Posts

The Best Professor is Dr. Andrew Wig. He found ways to make physics more engaging to students. Often times his lectures would be filled with fun stories/examples, interesting demonstrations,and as always gave excellent lectures on every subject he teaches (college physics, modern, electronics, etc.).

Whenever students eyes would glaze over from an intense lecture... he would stop and tell the students to get up and stretch and then thought of various pop culture references or funny stories to help students understand a topic that they might be having difficulty with.

Outside of the classroom, Dr. Wig is always helpful with a cornucopia of knowledge. He helps students with any questions about career paths, research opportunities, or school in general.

He is approachable, fun, and interesting professor! He even inspired a Biochemistry/molecular biology major like myself to pursue a minor in physics! I initially abhorred physics and struggled with a lot of concepts, but Dr. Wig helped explain them to me in terms that I can understand.. Also, Dr. Wig, a few students, and myself have always gotten into philosophical physics kind of discussions and it's conversations like that that inspired me to take a modern physics class and eventually pursue a minor. Because of him I got a gig doing research only because he introduced the concept of optical tweezers (yay lasers!) to me as a pet project almost a year and a half ago. Because of Dr. Wig's encouragement and support, I was able to win an undergraduate research award grant from SPS.

So in short why would he win the best professor contest? because a professor does more than just teach, they lead, they inspire, and find the potential in every student.


Re: Here are the rules - June 10 2010 1:05
Kendra Lyons
1 Posts

At first, it was difficult to choose just one professor to nominate--I've been blessed with so many helpful and outstanding professors. However, as I reflected on each class and each meeting I've had, one professor does stand out in making the biggest impact on my life.  

Dr. Charles Joenathan is the department chair for Physics and Optical Engineering, and I consider myself lucky to have met him within the first month of my Freshman year. I was a Biomedical Engineer but felt misplaced in my introductory classes. I didn't have the same love for biology my peers did, but I felt compelled to learn more during my Physics class. After speaking briefly to my Freshman adviser, she directed me to Dr. Joenathan. Even though I was not one of his students, or even in his department, he made time to meet with me several times during that first month and helped convince me to change my major. The thought of changing my major to something I knew so little about scared me, but Dr. Joenathan had faith in me, even when I didn't. Since that time, he has helped me apply for jobs and research both in and outside our department.  

He always makes time for students, despite his busy schedule as the head of the department, whether it's just to chat, make students food, or help with homework. Even students with other majors who "hate" physics admit they enjoy his classes. He brings chocolate for any sleepy students and is always excited to teach with a catching enthusiasm.  

Dr. Joenathan makes our department one that students across campus acknowledge as being one of the most fun and helpful, though challenging. Without him, I'm not sure that I would have found a place that feels so right for me, and I know that he has done the same for many more students than just me. Thanks to him and his confidence in me, not only have I found a major I love, for the first time, with his encouragement, I am considering pursuing a Masters degree and even, perhaps, a PhD.

Re: Here are the rules - June 11 2010 10:50
Therese Jones
1 Posts

As we are transformed by the present cyber age, flashy animations, virtual experiments, web-based homework assignments, and computational projects have become the norm for physics courses.  However, the professor who most greatly impacted my undergraduate education removed all of this wrapping, allowing for a pure glimpse at astrophysical concepts through transparency-based lectures and exams on which calculators were not permitted.

Donald Schneider, a professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Penn State, has become a legend through his two semester long introductory astronomy for majors courses.  From motions on the celestial sphere, to the workings of telescopes, to stellar structure and evolution, to the big bang, students follow an inspired plot line as they complete problem sets describing the USS Nittany Lion's battles against the Tom Osborne, pitting space ships named after the University's mascot and one-time rival Nebraska coach against each other.  Other problems, from the calculation of the distance to the moon at the time of the dinosaurs, to probability that a person will inhale a molecule from Napoleon's last breath, to the energy needed to destroy the death star, force students to think outside of the box, and apply physical intuition as they solve problems that seem at first impossible.  Exams are equally as difficult, with 50-minutes to solve seven such problems, including rederiving many of the laws of physics in alternate universes with differing physical properties.  Due to the abstraction of such concepts, less than one-third of the initial ~70 enrollees in the class remain by the end of the spring semester (it is intended as a course to weed out those without the mathematical background to do the major); those who do survive find the course an affirmation of their desire to do astronomy, and a spark that forces them to ask only the sorts of questions true researchers would dream up.

Despite the 9am class time slot, students show up daily to the course, and are on the edge of their seats as they follow the continuous writing of equations on the transparencies, and are prompted by questions requiring quick order of magnitude calculations, from the energy the sun would give off if it were made of burning wood, to the pressure inside of a white dwarf.  If the class hesitates in giving an answer, an "injury time-out" is taken, tacking on extra time to the course for the day.  

Although there are many measures by which one can measure Dr. Schneider's teaching effectiveness, from students' test scores, to research experience, to the fact that many graduate schools now regard high performance in the course as a excellent sign of promise, the most indicative measure of success is the degree at which the course unifies its students.  As students collaborate on homework, much like they would in the context of true astrophysical problems, they morph from individuals lost in a 40,000-person campus into a family.  From three-hour trips at midnight to the nearest 7-11 just to get slurpees after collaborating on an assignment, to camping out all night in the astronomy building and decorating the classroom, while clad in "varsity astrophysics" t-shirts before the last day of class (a camp known as Schneiderville, a take on Paternoville, the school's football game equivalent), it is clear that the four fundamental forces are not the only things that can be unified through the study of astrophysics.

Post edited June 11, 2010 at 10:37 AM EST.

Post edited June 12, 2010 at 10:05 AM EST.

inspiring posts - June 12 2010 10:54
Society of Physics...
293 Posts

Wow, I'm impressed, humbled and inspired by what y'all have written about your professors...

Adjunct Professor of Physics, Editor of The Physics Teacher, and GWU SPS Chapter Advisor

Re: Here are the rules - July 15 2010 11:54
Devin Underwood
1 Posts

I have known so many good Professors, but I would like to nominate the Professor that inspired me to study Physics. Earl Blodgett from the University of Wisconsin River Falls, is the best professor. His enthusiasm and passion towards the subject has not only inspired myself, but countless undergrads as well. He is the life of SPS at River Falls, and he enjoys reaching out, by demonstrating physics to the community. His lectures are energetic and entertaining, and he shows infinite patience for young students. He is the reason I started studying physics, and consequently shall continue to study physics. Go Earl!!!!


Re: Here are the rules - July 16 2010 7:37
Amy Gladwin
1 Posts

I took Dr Pitucco for several classes at Pima Community College in Tucson, AZ: Honors Colloquium, Introductory Mechanics, Intro to Electricity and Magnetism, Thermodynamics, Quantum Theory and Special Relativity, and Tensor Theory.
When he walks into the room, he brings nothing but a dry erase marker, walks straight to the board (while beginning his lecture on the way), and picks up exactly where he left off last class. I don't have a single other teacher that can develop a lesson before my eyes that is so dense, yet fluid, engaging and entertaining-without notes, a book, or a powerpoint to guide his train of thought. He's not just a lecturing professor. That's not exactly how I would describe his method.

Sure, there's a lecture going on, but it's in a language you've never seen before. He uses set theoretic notation from day one. It's pretty scary the first time you see it, but I've grown so fond of it now I use it all the time. Then, he doesn't just lecture while we sit there quietly and take notes. In fact, if you dare sit in the front, you'd better be prepared to bark out answers to difficult questions on the spot while he shouts "quickly!"

In class, he has a persona that is strict, demanding, unapologetic, unsympathetic and intimidating. It's very stressful to be a member of his class, but you learn how to have conviction when you answer a question. He knows his stuff, and I've never met a student that didn't have the highest level of respect for him. Meet him after class and you'll find it's all an act. He's really very charming, funny, and encouraging.

The alter classroom ego calms down a bit when the class has proven they're willing to do the hard work it takes to learn the material. Somehow he manages to motivate class after class of lazy, uninspired, self-entitled brats (I'm an older student, can't you tell?) to want to work hard. I've seen over and over again. The personality of his students seems to change through the course of a semester. Kids that were once ready to cheat on a test or copy someone's homework all of a sudden have strong opinions on complacency and academic integrity.
I wanted to be a physicist when I entered my first class with him, but I really didn't understand what it took until I made it through my first semester. His classes are by far harder than any you would expect to find a community college, but his philosophy is that when I get my PhD (as he assumed we all would be doing!) I'll be competing with Ivy League schools and countries that "teach Calculus in middle school." It's like a scared straight intervention, but once you get the first taste of success in his class it's kind of exhilarating! My first test score in my first class was a 45%, which was actually much higher than the class average. It was the lowest test score I had ever received and I studied so hard for that test.

Eventually, I learned the right methods, joined a study group which met for several hours nightly, and somehow managed to get a perfect score on one of his E&M exams. I was instantly famous because no one had ever done that before. I carried the test around with me for a month like it was an Olympic gold medal so I could show it whenever someone asked to see it. I was so proud of this test, that if I had had kids, I would have had to pick the ugliest one, remove their picture from the frame and replace it with this test.

Until this point, though I had always wanted to go to graduate school, I kept it a secret because I was just a waitress at a resort, going back to school. I knew it was kind of a lofty dream and wasn't even really sure I could do it. Once you survive a class like Dr Pitucco's though, you pretty much feel like you can do anything.

Wow! ... remarkable professor, thanks - July 21 2010 3:30
Society of Physics...
293 Posts

What a great tribute...

Adjunct Professor of Physics, Editor of The Physics Teacher, and GWU SPS Chapter Advisor

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