March 2023: Rumiana Nikolova-Genov
College of DuPage, Addison, Illinois
- Member since 2008
- Professor of Physics
- Addison, Illinois
My first encounter with physics was in grade school when I was helping my older sister copy and organize her notes for the physics exams at the university she was attending. Jokingly, I like to compare this experience to a young kid learning a language - a lot of repetition and a lot of questions, most of which got their answers much later once I started studying physics in high school and university.
My teaching experience extends back to my undergraduate years in the Physics department at Plovdiv University. The last semester, as part of the curriculum, we had to teach a class every day and go through a rigorous critiquing process with feedback from the professors and peers after each lecture. This requirement made me realize the importance of a well-prepared and structured lecture that can keep the student's attention and interest up through the last minute. I still remember my professor's words that we should not be just communicators of science but instigators of curiosity and long-lasting interest in the subject in our students.
The career path for women in physics in communist and the very chaotic early post-communist Bulgaria was very difficult. This led to my decision to come to the United States. I knew I had to start anew in my adoptive country but that didn’t deter me. I worked at Argonne National Laboratory for seven years and earned an advanced degree in physics at UIC. I then started working as an adjunct instructor at the College of DuPage teaching evening classes. In 2006 I became a full-time professor at COD and a member of AAPT, joining two communities of amazing like-minded colleagues who are passionate about education. I also engage with the surrounding community through presentations at a local library, where children are introduced to the magic of physics. Seeing the joy in their eyes when they learn something new makes my soul soar. In my teaching career, I strive not only to make physics easier to understand and interesting but to create a broad interest in science in general, as well as give my students tools they can use in other areas of study and life.
I have never received so much support and acknowledgment for my work as a member of the physics community here. The AAPT provides an excellent forum for the exchange of ideas and research and I always feel enriched and inspired after every meeting or workshop.
I am grateful to AAPT for the opportunity to serve as chair of the Committee on Physics in Two-Year Colleges (CPTYC) in 2022. I am very proud of the work the committee did in providing opportunities for communication for two-year college teachers of physics and astronomy, exploring topics of professional concern, developing friendships, and mentoring many colleagues. The AAPT Board of Directors acknowledged that the Committee on Physics for Two-Year Colleges did "Outstanding work during very trying times" and the CPTYC was awarded the "Committee of the Year."
We all come from different backgrounds and experiences but the AAPT makes us all feel that we belong to the physics community. We feel united by a common passion for a deeper understanding of nature through science and a shared purpose of passing this passion on to our students.