October 2019: Jackie Chini
University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida
- Member since 2002
- Assistant Professor
- Orlando, Florida
I joined AAPT in 2002, as a freshman physics major. At that time, I considered physics to be my pathway into medical school; I didn’t see my future in physics teaching. But, my physics advisor, Robert Fenstermacher at Drew University, suggested new Society of Physics Student members select AAPT for our free secondary membership, so I signed up. Over the next several years of my undergraduate physics program, I became less focused on a medical career and more interested in the parallels I saw between my deepening interests in physics and sociology and their disciplinary focuses on using observations to build models. Dr. Fenstermacher was back with more useful career advice—try a summer research experience in this "new" field of physics education research! After one summer of research with Sanjay Rebello at Kansas State University, I was hooked; I went back to KSU to complete my PhD in physics with research in physics education with Sanjay.
After completing my PhD, I worked in several positions in the Physics Department at the University of Central Florida. I taught studio-mode physics courses, trained graduate teaching assistants and developed a Learning Assistant Program. The talks, workshops and posters I attended and relationships I formed at AAPT meetings helped prepare me for each new task. Now, as an assistant professor running a research program, I have the opportunity to both give back to and continue to learn from the diverse knowledge of the AAPT community by planning sessions and offering workshops on topics not typically represented at AAPT. My primary focus is on supporting learner variation, particularly through teaching and research group practices that support individuals with disabilities. A recent AAPT highlight was co-organizing the Accessibility and Disability Meet-up with Rebecca Lindell and Dimitri Dounas-Frazer at the Summer 2019 Meeting.
Through service to the AAPT community I have learned that members have the agency to steer our community's present and future. As chair of the Committee on Science Education for the Public, I worked to diversify the audiences the committee's Summer and Winter Meeting sessions centered as "the public". Our colleagues Ximena Cid and Steve Kanim have demonstrated that the physics education research community has historically developed and tested curricula with undergraduate students who are less diverse and better mathematically prepared than the typical undergraduate physics student. Inspired by Ximena and Steve's work as well as past Research in Physics Education Committee Chair Vashti Sawtelle, I added sessions on outreach for underserved populations to several meetings. Currently, I am a member of the AAPT Diversity Website Taskforce, where I collaborate with current AAPT President Mel Sabella and other taskforce members to envision the resources the AAPT community could curate and create to support physics teachers in creating a more inclusive physics learning environment. I challenge AAPT members to get involved, build partnerships and help create the resources you think our community needs.
This year, it feels like my experiences with AAPT and SPS are coming back full circle. My initial membership to AAPT started as no-charge add-on to my SPS membership and provided me the opportunity to be a part of advancing the field of physics education. As Associate Zone Councilor for SPS Zone 4 in 2005, I got to vote for SPS to endorse the American Physical Society's Statement on Physics Education Research. This Fall, I have had the opportunity to work with colleagues I've met through AAPT to share lessons about inclusion in physics education back to the SPS community. Dimitri Dounas-Frazer and I co-wrote an article for the SPS Observer on active learning and inclusive learning environments. Geraldine Cochran and I are planning a workshop on inclusive practices for physics undergrads for the 2019 SPS PhysCon.
These opportunities highlight the greatest benefit I have experienced from AAPT—relationships that push me to be a more thoughtful physics educator, physics education researcher and individual.