My most important objective as a teacher (and mentor) is to challenge and inspire my students to think about their world, and indeed their universe, in new ways and with a scientific perspective. Comprehension and retention of physics and astronomy materials is vital, but understanding that the critical thinking and problem solving techniques applied within our field are also essential for a wide range of other disciplines is the glue that holds the knowledge together. My job is more than to just teach the traditional materials found in a textbook. My goal is to also provide my students with important skills, in applied mathematics, statistical analysis, computational and critical thinking and problem solving, which are essential for any career they choose to pursue.
The most rewarding part of teaching is knowing that I am helping to create a more scientifically literate society, where my students have the skills needed to make informed decisions, evaluate arguments and proposals based on facts and logic, assess the importance and significance of statistics presented in popular science articles and the press, and approach their lives with an inquisitive nature.
Currently I am teaching a course on scientific data visualization, as part of Northwestern CIERA's IDEAS program. Course materials are available on my GitHub site here. Currently this course runs in the summers.
Participation in real and significant scientific research can increase a student's confidence, and introduces them to the challenges, rewards, missteps and joys of success that go along with independent research projects. Picking an appropriate project, in terms of difficulty level, student interest and duration, is paramount, and must be made in collaboration with the student. As a mentor, my goal is to develop projects that are authentic, challenging, feasible and will encourage the student to think deeply about the topic beyond merely the task at hand. Each student requires his or her own path to follow. This path will invariably differ from student to student and may not be identical to my own. As such, a flexibility is needed when explaining projects and searching with students for answers to their questions. I constantly seek the clearest and most natural method for reaching each student in my approach to both mentoring and teaching.
I have mentored many students, from high school through graduate school, and also worked with many postdocs. If you are interested in joining my group, please contact me (see contact information below). I am also the PI and director of our Northwestern CIERA REU program.