March 2019: John Jewett Jr

California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, California

John Jewett Jr

  • Member since 1976
  • Emeritus Professor
  • Pomona, California

About John

I received my PhD in Physics in 1974, from The Ohio State University, at which the Physics Department Chair was the late Len Jossem, a stalwart for decades at AAPT. I received my first faculty appointment in 1974 at Stockton State College, now known as Stockton University, in Pomona, New Jersey.

I joined AAPT in 1976 while at Stockton. I was inspired by the high quality of work that I read in the AAPT journals, and I became deeply involved in physics education research. I began submitting manuscripts and had a number of papers published in AJP. In 1984, I accepted an offer from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, California, and became perhaps the only person in the world to teach physics at universities located in two Pomonas! I continued to publish articles in AJP and The Physics Teacher. In addition, I enjoyed making a number of invited and contributed presentations on my work at AAPT national meetings and other professional events.

I also became involved in Special Conferences associated with AAPT. In 1986, I was a delegate to the FermiLab Conference on the Teaching of Modern Physics near Chicago. This was a wonderful opportunity to meet and get to know other AAPT members and to visit one of the premier research sites in the country. In 1993, I was a delegate to the Second Trilateral Conference on Physics Education in Tokyo, Japan. Again, I worked with many AAPT members and had the opportunity to visit Japan, which is actually my birthplace, as my father was stationed at the naval base in Yokosuka after World War II. In 1993, I was quite fortunate to be selected again as a delegate to the Third Trilateral Conference on Physics Education in Zhauqing, China, offering an opportunity to see a different culture and experience the physics teaching points-of-view of the instructors there.

Much of my teaching efforts at both Stockton and Cal Poly were supported by local and national grants. From the National Science Foundation, I received two grants to support innovative courses and teaching methods in our introductory courses at Stockton. Toward the end of my time at Stockton, I began to be involved with developing new approaches for teaching physics for high school physics instructors. After I began at Cal Poly, I was co-PI on two major NSF grants ($2.5 million in total) for developing long-term programs to improve high school physics teaching. The importance of the AAPT in improving physics instruction was stressed to the teachers participating in these programs, and many new members of AAPT resulted from that emphasis. The programs included opportunities for high school teachers to hear special presentations from invited scientists, including two future Nobel Prize winners, Kip Thorne and Steven Chu.

Other local and state grants provided funds for me to develop a Physics Magic Show program at Cal Poly. This program involved many of the undergraduate physics majors and included many shows for elementary school classes who visited the university. For many of these children, it was their first time on a university campus, and, we hope, it encouraged some of them to see university learning in their futures. Each year, the program culminated in a jam-packed auditorium to see a major Physics Magic Show presentation, including a story plot, laser shows, costumes, etc. in the University Theater on the day of the Campus Open House in the spring. I was proud to learn that one of our physics undergraduates was hired at Disney Imagineering after graduation and cited his Magic Show experience as a major influence on his hiring.

I have been blessed to have my work recognized with a number of awards. I will mention three. In 1992, I was named as the Outstanding Professor for the Cal Poly campus. In 1998, I was extremely honored to receive the Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Physics Teaching from the AAPT. I received the award at a meeting in Lincoln, Nebraska. At this meeting, I gave a talk on using various antique devices to teach physics, an approach that I used for most of my teaching career (The Physics Teacher, 53, 428 (2015), 54, 24 (2016)). The third award I will mention is the 2010 Alumni Lifetime Achievement Award in the Sciences, from Drexel University, my undergraduate alma mater.

In 2004, I retired from Cal Poly and became Emeritus Professor of Physics. I continue to publish in journals, as noted in the previous paragraph and as indicated by a five-part series on Energy and the Confused Student (The Physics Teacher 46, 38 (2008), 46, 81 (2008), 46, 149 (2008), 46, 210 (2008), 46, 269 (2008)). This series was especially gratifying to me, since the proper teaching of the concept of energy has been a career-long concern for me. In addition to writing my own manuscripts, I have reviewed dozens of manuscripts for AJP and The Physics Teacher in recent years.

I will finish this narrative with two of the most rewarding experiences in my retirement years. Just before retirement, I and three other members of the Physics Department at Cal Poly formed a band! Our drummer was Harvey Leff, a recent president of AAPT. Our lead guitarist was John Mallinckrodt, another active AAPT member, especially associated with AJP. Our singer and rhythm guitarist was Jolene Houser, our stockroom technician, who, earlier in her career, was a country singer. Therefore, we played country music, and, after a few rehearsals, we took our show on the road. Between 2003 and 2010, when our drummer moved to Portland, Oregon, we played almost 100 gigs. That total includes playing at the AAPT picnic for the 2004 AAPT meeting in Sacramento, California and, featuring a return performance from our drummer, playing at the AAPT meeting in Ontario, California, in 2011. All of the money we raised at our gigs was donated to a scholarship fund for physics students at Cal Poly, which still provides scholarships today and into the future.

The final experience that I will discuss is my career in textbook writing. Based on my experiences teaching high school teachers, who encouraged me to publish some of my ideas in a book, I published two books for teachers in the mid-1990s: Physics Begins with an M: Mysteries, Magic, and Myth (now reprinted as The World of Physics: Mysteries, Magic, and Myth) and Physics Begins with Another M: Mysteries, Magic, Myth, and Modern Physics. These books contain several hundred ideas for generating student interest and excitement in physics classes. In 1995, I was invited by Ray Serway to join him on his work on the second edition of Principles of Physics. This was a wonderful opportunity and a thrilling experience, to share my ideas with a huge audience of physics students. This experience led to my being co-author on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th editions of Principles of Physics as well as the 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th editions of Physics for Scientists and Engineers. I have added a number of new pedagogical features to these books, many of which have arisen from my experiences at AAPT meetings and events.

I think the most important thing to say in closing is that AAPT was involved throughout my career. I could not have had the success that I have experienced without the assistance and inspiration from my association with AAPT. Even in my retirement, I pick up new ideas at national meetings, which eventually find their way into my textbooks. Joining AAPT as a young professor was one of the best decisions in my life and I encourage all new physics educators to join the national AAPT. We have a wonderful opportunity for professional development in AAPT and we should spread the word, in order to get every physics teacher involved in some way.