June 2024: Abigail Daane

South Seattle College, Seattle, Washington

Abigail Daane

  • Member since 2020
  • Physics Professor
  • Seattle, Washington

About Abigail

If I am being honest, I only got into physics because I was forced to take classes to pursue astronomy. I had a hard time in physics during my undergraduate degree, I found classes boring, unrelated to my life, and the culture of physics toxic – even in a women’s college! When I went to graduate school, it was far worse – and the only joy I found was teaching ballet at a local studio and astronomy labs to non-major students. So – I hated physics, hated the culture and the bias and sexism I experienced firsthand, and quit shortly after completing my Masters. …. It's a good thing that is not the end of the story, right??? :)

After leaving graduate school, I randomly applied to a bunch of tutoring and teaching positions and got hired to teach physics at a private secondary school – starting the next week. I ended up teaching biology, life science, physical science, dance, earth science, and leadership that year. In doing this, I realized that teaching was wonderful, even when I was not (yet) any good at it, and that I would like to teach something I knew more about. Enter: physics.

I began teaching high school physics with the sneaky plan to infuse astronomy and started to realize why I hated physics. It wasn’t the content but the way in which it was taught to me and the way the culture of physics was unsupportive of women and people of color. I looked at my classes, full of young, white (mostly lovely) men, and I could not figure out how to fix this. I wanted to understand this better. I went back to school for my teaching credential and also applied to the Knowles Science Teaching Fellowship. I got a chance to meet other teachers thinking deeply about how to teach. Here, I learned about physics education research and AAPT! What? People do this??! People gather and share ideas across the nation (and farther) and study how to make physics teaching better? YES! I went back to graduate school again to try to better understand the inequities in physics and try to make changes to the culture.

During and after completing my PhD in Education, I found a wonderful, supportive group of people in the PER community who cared about changing this too. I love that I can do research with two-year college students, high school teachers, and university professors in collaboration. The Underrepresentation Curriculum group, my faculty learning groups, and my research groups all have people dedicated to rethinking how we teach physics and how we can make it more inclusive and equitable. I think the thing that really made me feel at home in this national community at AAPT was the fact that high school, two-year college, and university people came together to think about physics teaching and that there was less of a hierarchy there than in many other spaces. I feel grateful to have this community that works to make the world better – and inspires others to improve too!