August 2020: Stephanie Williams
College Park, MD
- Member since 2020
- Graduate Student
- College Park, MD
When I began my undergraduate degree, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. I knew I loved space as a kid, so I started with Astronomy, and eventually double-majored in physics. I loved the content but definitely felt a struggle feeling liked I belonged in the larger physics world. Because I was a first-generation low-income college student, I had to work through my degree, often multiple jobs. I was a really good nanny, and this eventually lead me into getting involved in the physics departments’ summer camps at University of Maryland. This experience is what really launched my physics teaching/education career.
From this position, I was introduced to the Society of Physics Students and applied to their summer internship program. My job was focused on using resources in Neil’s Bohr Archival Library at the American Institute of Physics to create culturally inclusive lesson plans (available at https://www.aip.org/history-programs/physics-history/teaching-guides-women-minorities ).
During that summer, AAPT was holding their summer meeting in nearby Washington, DC. My internship paid for me to attend the meeting and present my work. It was at that meeting, I was introduced to the field of physics education research, and the AAPT community, which at the time felt like the most inclusive welcome physics space I had ever existed in.
Since then, I have become connected in and involved in Physics Education Research, and now I am pursuing a PhD at the University of Maryland. I was also able to network and land a part-time job as the Lead Physical Science Educator for the Carnegie Academy for Science Education. I love teaching my District of Columbia middle schoolers, and I focus on cultivating student-centered inquiry-based culturally progressive curricula. Feel free to ask me about it!
I suppose my favorite thing about teaching is witnessing students realize they themselves are a meaningful part of the scientific community, and always have been, despite what dominant history might say. That, and I love being able to mentor these students in furthering their careers over the years. I never expected writing recommendation letters for others would bring me so much joy. Outside of teaching, doing research, and being a student I also help the physics department at the University of Maryland with outreach events and planning undergraduate conferences. I am also a part of a new collaborative of graduate students fighting for racial justice on our campus and in Academia at large.