April 2024: Kathryn McGill

University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida

Kathryn McGill

  • Member since 2017
  • Assistant Instructional Professor
  • Gainesville, Florida

About Kathryn

It feels only fitting to begin this narrative for the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) by acknowledging the tremendous impact my AP Physics C teacher, Mr. Anthony Miles, had on my decision to pursue physics in a professional capacity. His infectious enthusiasm for the topic instantly catalyzed my own interest, and he was a tremendous support as I explored college physics programs. I dedicate this Member Spotlight to him.

While my path into physics as a discipline began on the first day of AP Physics in high school, my path into teaching it professionally was a bit more circuitous. After completing my B.S. in Physics from the College of Creative Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), I took a gap year before grad school and taught discussion sections as a tutor for UCSB's Campus Learning and Assistance Services. However, while I enjoyed the work, I didn't immediately translate it into a career aspiration; rather I entered my physics Ph.D. at Cornell University interested in condensed matter experiments, thinking I might want to one day become a professor in the traditional run-a-research-group sense of the word. During graduate school, I started a YouTube channel, The Physics Factor, as an outlet for my many outreach ideas. In evaluating my experience towards the end of my Ph.D., I realized that my heart lay in physics teaching and outreach rather than in physics research. I was thus ecstatic to join the University of Florida Department of Physics as a Lecturer and later, Assistant Instructional Professor.

Since joining the faculty at the University of Florida, I have become a bit of a specialist in teaching the large-enrollment introductory physics courses that we offer to our pre-health and engineering students, and I was honored to be granted a UF College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Teaching Award for the 2022-2023 academic year. My outreach interests still include YouTube: I work with students to create videos for the UF Physics YouTube channel. I've also dabbled in personal outreach projects, such as my COVID-era blog, "Physics, Explained." and "Physics for Goldies and Newbies" chats with senior members of my church.

AAPT has been a constant in my professional life since my last year or two of grad school, and I value the networking opportunities it has afforded me over the years. I’m chairing the History and Philosophy of Physics Area Committee this year (2024), and I’ve organized sessions for AAPT Summer Meetings a couple of times now. I always look forward to presenting at AAPT meetings: getting feedback from my peers and having focused discussions about the best methods for teaching physics fuels my excitement to get back into the classroom when the meeting is over. Here's to many more years of delightful physics adventures with AAPT!