June 2019: Kimberly Riegel
Queensborough Community College, Bayside, New York
- Member since 2014
- Assistant Professor of Physics
- Bayside, New York
My career path has never been a straight line between two points but rather a windy road that has brought a variety of challenges and joys. I first became interested in physics when my dreams of becoming a professional musician were cut short. As a violinist, tendonitis in my left wrist caused me to reevaluate my career path and made me realize that, even aside from the medical issues, I may never have what it takes to be a professional musician. I was still unwilling to abandon music all together though, so I reflected on my other strengths and what I could do with them. I had always enjoyed math and I liked the idea of blending math and music together; I ended up with acoustics. To this end I began taking physics classes and was hooked. I loved the feeling of problem solving and enjoyed the comradery of working in a lab with other like-minded scientists. Though my opportunities to study acoustics as an undergraduate were limited, I received my bachelor’s in physics from Vassar College and began pursuing a degree in acoustics at Penn State University. During my time there, out of necessity, I found a job working as an acoustical consultant in Houston, Texas. I really liked my job and thought I had found a calling. I worked for almost seven years while earning my doctorate degree from Penn State, as an acoustical consultant first in Texas and then in New York City.
In 2013, I began to feel I wanted to do more, to make more of an impact on the world. I decided to leave industry and try my hand in academia. I worked as a Consortium for Faculty Diversity (CFD) post-doctoral fellow at Vassar College studying architectural acoustics. A big part of my fellowship was teaching. I had never been on that side of the classroom before my first introductory calculus-based physics class at Vassar. I was totally unprepared for teaching. My graduate program did not offer teaching fellowships and I had spent years in industry. I was very lucky to have a great mentor who is a fabulous teacher. She gave me a crash course in pedagogical techniques. In addition, I joined AAPT and used their publications and resources to learn all I could about new physics pedagogical techniques as well as ways to implement them in my classroom and common issues that students had with the material that I should expect to encounter. After my postdoctoral work, I was appointed to a tenure track position at the City University of New York (CUNY)/Queensborough Community College. I am currently an assistant professor and teach introductory calculus-based physics, algebra-based physics and a physics of sound class for non-majors. I am constantly trying to improve my teaching methods by implementing new and different techniques in my classroom. For the first time last year, I implemented a flipped classroom in my calculus-based physics class. Additionally, I have taught courses that incorporate high impact practices such as writing intensive classes and undergraduate research in the classroom.
I have really enjoyed each phase of my career, but have never felt more fulfilled than the last four years I have spent teaching at Queensborough. Queensborough is a Minority and Hispanic Serving institution where a significant number of our students are first generation college students. Many come from high schools that don’t have physics curricula. The best part of my job is being able to make a difference to these students and see them observing physical laws for the first time as a scientist and really understanding how the world works. I get to expose them to new fields and new job possibilities which makes being a teacher exciting. I’m proud to say that I make my own little corner of the world a brighter place through my students and the potential they hold.