August 2021: Andrew Mason
University of Central Arkansas, Conway, Arkansas
- Member since 2008
- Associate Professor
- Conway, Arkansas
I first got interested in physics when I was very young – a combination of very good physical science and high school physics courses, not to mention access to public science museums, gave me a strong sense of wonder at the natural universe, particularly the precision with which phenomena could be described with physical laws. As I went through my undergraduate and graduate physics curricula, I was drawn in more and more by the increasingly interesting topics, such as using advanced mathematical and computational methods to treat more difficult phenomena. Ultimately, I found an interest in researching physics education – the intersection of cognition and physics was fascinating to me. Being able to do experimental research on physics students, in order to help them learn, was an inspiring direction for my Ph.D. dissertation.
As an associate professor at UCA, there has been ample opportunity to put research-based practices, e.g. context-rich problems written to serve as an in-class pre-lab that is conceptually connected to the ensuing lab exercise, as well as discover new questions to research, e.g. whether non-physics majors’ students’ attitudes towards physics affects their “buy-in” to implementing the aforementioned research-based exercise.
But there is of course more to the job than that. There is an art to physics teaching as well as a science, and I have relished being able to improve my teaching skills and get to know my students. Within my undergraduate-only department, it is much easier to get to know my students one-on-one and be able to discuss things with them individually. My favorite thing about teaching is seeing students get that “aha” moment where something clicks and they understand the problem attempt better than they previously did.
I’ve very much enjoyed and appreciated my AAPT membership over the years. It’s allowed me to connect with fellow physics educators from all backgrounds and network in a productive way for both teaching and research. I’d like to thank everyone I’ve gotten to know and befriend over the years for being positive influences.