July 2019: Greg DiLisi
John Carroll University, University Heights, Ohio
- Member since 2003
- Associate Professor
- University Heights, Ohio
I can point to three events that led me to pursue a career in physics: First, as a child, I recall vividly watching the Apollo lunar landings. I sat spellbound by the events on TV and wanted to understand what I was witnessing. Second, in middle school, I worked on science fair projects with my dad. My father was an electrician and having every imaginable piece of electronic equipment spread out over the kitchen table as we worked on these projects created in me, a fascination with science and engineering. Last, while in high school, I watched the first run of Carl Sagan's Cosmos: A Personal Voyage (I had Sagan for class seven years later). A group of students at my high school watched the show religiously and debated its content. We all attended a Halloween party dressed in maroon turtlenecks, tan corduroy jackets, and bushy eyebrows. Sagan unquestionably impacted my decision to attend Cornell University and pursue physics as my major.
Membership in AAPT has directly impacted my professional growth. In the area of teaching, I believe that the best teachers never stop learning. AAPT provides me with a rich, reliable archive of trial-tested materials that I bring into my own classrooms and that challenges my views of how I am teaching. In the area of scholarship, AAPT allows me to “return the favor.” By contributing articles to AAPT's publication, The Physics Teacher, I am able to share my ideas for student learning and help teachers and students apply physics to new situations. Last, in the area of service, AAPT keeps me connected to its network of teachers through such venues as attending national and regional conferences and reviewing manuscripts. The primary way in which I contribute to physics education is through my publications in The Physics Teacher. For example, my last several articles have focused on using case studies - in which physics was used to analyze a historical event - as a pedagogical approach to teaching physics. I have found that such an approach can be used to raise historical awareness in my students. By presenting students with relevant background information, comparative timelines, and leading theories as to why events unfolded as they did, I can bring sometimes forgotten events to new generations of students.
Furthermore, this approach shows students that scientists no longer adopt a strictly passive approach to history. Instead, they bring sophisticated analytical tools to scrutinize why certain events happened. Far from being a set of agreed upon immutable facts, the historical record is open to re-examination and re-interpretation.