January 2022: David Marasco
Foothill College, Los Altos Hills, California
- Member since 2004
- Chair of Physics
- Los Altos Hills, California
I am a second-generation physicist. My father earned his Ph.D. at CERN in the early 1970s and spent his career in the industry. I really enjoyed my physics class in high school, taught by Fr. Mario Capitolo, and I also had strong physics professors at UC San Diego. I did surface science in graduate school at Northwestern University. I got great job satisfaction performing experiments, but less so for the writing/publishing part of science. I knew that I did not want a research career and happily found a job at a two-year college.
The summer before I started my teaching job, AAPT’s summer meeting was in Sacramento, which was in driving range. My father joined AAPT in 1975, and although he was not teaching, he never let his membership lapse. He encouraged me to go to the summer meeting, and I took his advice. That changed everything. I would have been a “lecture about the derivations in the book, and then show homework problems” professor, but I learned at that meeting that I could teach physics differently than I had been taught. My local Northern California/Nevada sections had new teacher workshops, run at the time by Paul “Pablo” Robinson, Dean Baird, and Stephanie Finander, and I learned so much at those. The workshops drew me into my local chapter, and after a while, I joined the leadership team and have served at various times as President, Program Chair, and Section Rep. The NorCal/Nevada chapter has been blessed by many people who are willing to give back to their community like Bree Barnett-Dreyfuss, Val Monticue, Dennis Buckley, Lee Trampleasure, Summer Chrisman, Dan Burns, and Janet Lee. Eventually, AAPT returned to Sacramento, so I attended my second national meeting. I knew that I had found my people, and since I no longer had a small child in my house, I started going to both meetings every year. I have chaired the Diversity and Special Projects & Philanthropy committees and currently serve on the Meetings Location Committee, the Nominating Committee, the Two-Year College Committee, and co-chair the DEI Task Force.
Outside of AAPT, I also am a part of the Foothill College Physics Show. Frank Cascarano and I perform an outreach demo show for children. We have performances for the public and use money from ticket sales to bring kids from Title 1 schools to our campus for field trips where they get to see both The Physics Show and the opportunity of college. We even gave them a shirt, so there is probably a kid at their school wearing a shirt that says physics on it every day. Pre-pandemic, we would serve roughly 25k people a year, including 3-4k from Title 1 schools. We are preparing to restart our shows this spring.
Physics and teaching have given me an excellent career. I have been able to work with amazing people both at the local and national levels and collaborating with them has pushed me to grow both professionally and personally. This has benefitted my students and me profoundly, and I try to give back where I can.