January 2021: Alexandru Maries
University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio
- Member since 2011
- Assistant Professor
- Cincinnati, Ohio
I have been engaged in some or another form of teaching for quite a while: in high-school, I tutored several classmates in physics and taught a couple of friends to play guitar, in college I was a tutor at the school’s tutoring center for 4 years, tutored privately, and also worked for an SAT prep company. In graduate school I taught recitations, labs, and was also a grader for graduate courses. I suppose this means that going into a teaching career should have been obvious, but I did spend the first year of grad school “shopping around” and engaging with several different research groups, including working in a solid state physics lab for the first summer. In my first year of grad school, I met Chandralekha Singh who was teaching all the incoming graduate students a Teaching of Physics class, and it was through discussions with her in the summer of 2010 that I ended up deciding to engage in physics education research, and joined AAPT soon after.
I have been an AAPT member for nearly 10 years; I still remember my first summer meeting in Omaha: how exciting it was to be part of this community and how overwhelmed I was – there was so much to learn! It has been a great community from which I’ve learned a lot through workshops and talks/seminars, but to which I’ve also given back: in addition to giving talks about my research, I’ve served on the graduate education committee as both chair and vice-chair, I have organized sessions and workshops, and I have conducted my own workshop based on my research with TAs.
Since joining AAPT, I have grown quite significantly both in my academic and in my teaching career. Throughout the years of attending AAPT meetings and reading up on physics education research, I picked up more and more strategies for teaching which have been instrumental in shaping my current teaching practice. One of my most recent adoptions has been to incorporate an activity during the first class to help improve students’ sense of social belonging, growth mindset, and general motivation to properly engage with the class. This ties directly to my favorite thing about teaching physics: helping students who are scared and anxious about physics at the beginning recognize that they are capable of doing well if they engage with productive learning strategies, guiding them to do so, and ultimately help them be successful in something they were originally scared of. This is especially important for students who are traditionally underrepresented in physics and is a key to improving diversity and inclusion. All of my efforts would have undoubtedly been much less successful without my participation in this great community, so thank you AAPT!