June 2020: Xandria Quichocho
Texas State University, San Marcos, TX
- Member since 2018
- Research Associate
- San Marcos, TX
My life’s goal was to study Dragons when I got to college. This has very little to do with physics, or why I chose physics, but it’s true. I wanted to major in Dragons at Oxford University, then become a field researcher looking for proof of dragons. Taking that into account, it’s not surprising that I didn’t want to be a public-school teacher.
But for my first two years in university that’s what I worked towards. I spent two years in a music education program, trying my best to learn the theory, the pedagogy, and the trumpet. I tried and tried and tried desperately to imagine myself teaching music in a school and being happy with it. I enjoyed teaching cello, but I just got so tired of trying so hard to imagine myself being happy doing it all one day.
So, when people ask me, “How did you go from music to physics?” I tell them the truth. Physics is easier.
I became a learning assistant during my second semester in the physics program at a new university. At some point during our pedagogy class taught by my mentor, research advisor, and “physics mom” Dr. Eleanor Close she said the words, “Physics Education Research” and I was like, “Hmm. That sounds hella dope. I wanna learn more about that.”
Eight months later I was in Washington D.C at the 2018 AAPT/PERC conference to present the research I’d done over the summer. But here’s the thing. I’m a performer through and through. I was born for the stage. I did cello, I acted, I debated, my sisters and I did choreographed karaoke performances on the daily, but I was scared to share myself in this space I wasn’t sure I belonged to.
My work is intensely personal, and immensely performative; again, I was born for the stage. But for the first time the performance was about me, and people who are like me, and that was scary. I’d never said, out loud to people, “Hi! I’m hella Black, hella Chamorro, and very, very, very bisexual and I’m doing research that highlights the extraordinary experiences of other BIWOC and LGBTQ+ women in physics!” I’m from Texas, y’all, and I got a real Catholic family, these are not things we talk about regularly at the Sunday brunch table.
The reactions I got during that first meeting were nothing but positive. People engaged with the research in ways I never imagined. I learned the most beautiful thing—teachers researchers love to learn, and they want to learn. The amazing people I’ve met at AAPT have done nothing but encourage me with their questions and curiosity, and their acceptance. I look forward to every single meeting because it’s an opportunity to grow as a researcher and as an educator.
I’m now serving as the Associate Director of Texas State’s wonderful and amazing Physics Learning Assistant Program and have had the privilege to LA in the student’s pedagogy course for two semesters. I still teach cello on the side and am working on my Suzuki method certification. While I didn’t want to be a public-school teacher, I’m so, so, so hype that one day I’ll be working in a university teaching teachers to teach physics and probably teaching physics myself. I love teaching physics for the same reasons I love teaching cello. The curiosity and dedication of the musicians and physicists I’ve met are based in the desire to share their experiences with others. The drive that I see in my students to become better LAs, or teachers, or cellists not just for themselves, but for the people around them is inspiring. The fact that I’ll be able to share these stories and experiences through a continued membership in AAPT is a such a gift.
I may not have wanted to become an educator, but here I am, about to go into a graduate program in physics to do just that. It must be destiny or something, right?