February 2021: Glenda Denicolo
Suffolk County Community College, Selden, New York
- Member since 2008
- Associate Professor
- Selden, New York
For the longest time I thought my father was a physical education teacher because that was all I could understand from the word “physics”. As an imaginary physical education teacher, he sure loved to look at the moon with a small refractor telescope we had at home, and made us watch Carl Sagan’s Cosmos with him on Sunday mornings. He also had many science fiction books with fantastic cover illustrations. When I was about 13 I finally picked one to read, and got hooked. It was Dune by Frank Herbert: my favorite still today. Around the same time—somehow this is embarrassing to confess, my brother and I were fascinated with the movie Top Gun. The actress Kelly McGillis played an astrophysicist in the movie—the first time I heard of such profession. The encyclopedias we had at home helped me understand a bit more about astrophysics. I think that’s the precise moment when I decided what I wanted to do. Incidentally, my brother pursued a career as pilot in the Brazilian air force.
My physicist dad explained that in Brazil at that time, the best path to astrophysics was to have a strong physics foundation, and so I got my BSc in physics at the same institution where he worked. We always avoided each other’s classes, but I had a small desk in his office to study. The greatest advantage was that I got involved in research pretty early: thin film electrochemical deposition on silicon substrate was a hot topic at the department at the time. I got my fill of accidental chemical fume inhaling, a few papers, and invaluable experience. After a summer research scholarship at the Canary Islands observing comets, it was clear to me that my master’s degree needed to focus on astronomy, at the national observatory in Rio de Janeiro. It is amazing how much you learn from other students: codes, handy scripts, sharing all sorts of templates and software. It was my introduction to the world of astronomical data reduction. Then came the opportunity to do a PhD in Cambridge UK. I refer to those three years as my academic glory days. It was followed by postdoctoral research in Santa Cruz CA, marriage, and moving to Long Island, NY.
I have been teaching at Suffolk County Community College for over 10 years now, and have learned and evolved so much since then—greatly due to AAPT workshops and meetings. I have had the honor and pleasure to serve as chair of the Committee on Physics in Two-Year Colleges (TYC) of the AAPT, which made me realize that, although I enjoy teaching students, I thrive even more in the interactions with my fellow colleagues. I think that is because we are together looking for ways to get better at what we do, to share ideas and get feedback. Coming from a typically small TYC department, I crave these transformative and constructive interactions.
During the pandemic, the TYC community connected through the AAPT TYC email list and organized periodical meetings online. The resources shared in these valuable meetings are placed here: https://sites.google.com/a/aapt.org/comm/resources
I found my people.
I am looking forward to growing as an educator within this community.