August 2022: Beth Parks
Colgate University, Hamilton, NY
- Member since 1997
- Professor of Physics and Astronomy
- Hamilton, NY
I joined AAPT in 1997 when I started my teaching career at Colgate University. I have stayed with both of these organizations for the last 25 years. Despite the long-term commitment – or perhaps because of it! – these years have been continually exciting.
I’ve had many opportunities to visit and live in other areas of the world, taking students on two extended study trips to learn about renewable energy in Norway and two semester-long trips to Cardiff, Wales. I also served as a Fulbright fellow for a year, teaching and conducting research in Mbarara, Uganda.
I have been slowly teaching my way through the undergraduate physics curriculum—I finally got a chance to teach quantum mechanics. Soon, I hope to teach classical mechanics and our math methods course.
I’ve learned about a wide variety of research fields. My initial research at Colgate used time-domain terahertz spectroscopy to study single-molecule magnets, and I’ve also used this technique to study GHz resonators made from carbon nanotubes. I have ongoing projects to quantify insulation in buildings, make solar trackers appropriate for developing nations, characterize a diffusion demonstration, and study air pollution in Uganda.
I have learned an incredible amount of physics through teaching and research, especially through trying to keep up with my students’ questions. Now, as editor of the American Journal of Physics, I’m learning even more about the incredible breadth of ways that physics instructors are working to improve our understanding of the topics we teach and better present them to students. I also love having the opportunity to work with the dedicated staff and leaders of AAPT. They are working hard to build a community of physics teachers and to support physics learners. I’m looking forward to my next 25 years of physics!