Ximena Cid - July 2017 Member SpotlightSpotlight Archive

Member Spotlight

Ximena C. Cid
Carson, California
Assistant Professor

There is something to say about the sense of calm and peace I feel when I see the clear night sky.  I never have more wonder than when I look up at a dark sky, dark enough to see.  The whys and hows are so abundant, so free flowing. What an incredible space to find clarity.  I came into the world of physics through astronomy.  I received my bachelor’s degree in astrophysics from UC Berkeley and while I was at Cal I had the great fortune to work under Dr. Janet Luhmann in the space sciences labs studying where solar energetic particles originated from (the corona during a coronal mass ejection or the surface of the Sun during a flare).

In graduate school, I decided to switch my field of focus from space physics to physics education research (PER) under the guidance of Dr. Ramon Lopez.  I was given a paper to review a study where graduate students were asked to identify induced magnetic fields from field-aligned currents during a solar storm. This is an introductory physics concept yet many of the graduate students in the study couldn’t answer the questions correctly. It turned out to be a cognitive load issue as when the system was presented in 3D stereo, everyone was almost instantly able to answer the questions correctly.  I was fascinated by this and started wondering what other concepts in physics were related to cognitive load issues and/or visualization. The questions that kept me up at night slowly shifted from space physics to PER.  This was the moment I realized I wanted to be a physics education researcher as opposed to a space plasma physicists.

In switching to PER my national societies and colleagues also started switching.  I found like-minded people in AAPT and the PERC. I started to build friendships and started creating collaborations with other members of AAPT. I am currently serving as a member of the Committee on Diversity and have organized many sessions for AAPT over the years on diversity issues as well as cognitive load issues. The beauty of finding your people is that you find a sense of freedom to express your ideas, to dialogue about your research and everyone else around you somewhat on the same page. AAPT has provided me the space to grow as physicists, to engage in meaningful dialogue on issues surrounding diversity in physics spaces and has completely validated my skills as a researcher as well as an educator. As a woman of color physicists in a white-male-dominated field, AAPT has provided me the outlet to express my frustrations, work with my committee to create change and has allows me the freedom to let all aspects of my identity to shine.  I am very grateful to share this space.