For Phillip Krasicky
, physics, science education is about one thing: demonstration.
In the basement of Rockefeller Hall, Krasicky's
office is filled with fascinating objects.
A piece of metal foil floats in the air, while a holograph of a shark hovers in a frame.
As Krasicky reveals that the metal foil picks up a charge to repel itself away from the like charge on the aluminum plate, and that the shark appears three-dimensional due to a projection of an interference pattern between two lasers, the magic becomes physics.
Krasicky is a teaching support specialist and a senior lecturer in the physics department.
As a teaching support specialist, he oversees the lectures, comes up with ideas for demonstrations and helps develop lab equipment.
received the Faculty Innovation Teaching grant after developing a new lab experiment for PHYS 1112: Mechanics, in which students use video cameras to determine the distance an object travels over time.
They then use computers to produce a motion diagram.
Using this experiment, Krasicky
takes abstract physical concepts such as the relationship between time, distance, velocity and acceleration, and makes them visible so that students can more readily comprehend the principles of motion.
"It's a great way to show … how the world works from the standpoint of physics," he
Despite the importance of theory to physics, Krasicky
believes that demonstrations and visual experiments show the often overlooked importance of the subject in everyday life.
"Physics applies to us and to everything around us - from particles to atoms and molecules to viruses, bacteria, cells and living creatures, to all the objects in our everyday world to the celestial cosmos surrounding us.
Even though the principles of physics are very simple and basic, recognizing them in nature can sometimes be challenging because of the complexity of the objects and systems we observe," he
Krasicky studied physics as an undergraduate at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he got "hooked" on hockey by playing "piccolo, saxophone, clarinet, drums and frying pan" for the pep band there.
currently conducts the Ithaca Concert Band.
So when it came time for graduate school, Krasicky decided to come to Cornell for two reasons: its strong physics program and its hockey team.
As a graduate student, Krasicky maintained a strong interest in teaching physics.
After receiving his degree, Krasicky stayed at Cornell as a research assistant and lecturer.
After teaching at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York from 1990 to 1997, he came back to Cornell, becoming a senior lecturer.
As a career-long teacher, Krasicky studies how students learn physics, and uses his
findings to improve his
observes how demonstrations and labs are received by students compared to lectures.
also uses student iClicker responses to keep up with what students are actually thinking and to gather instantaneous feedback from the class.
mission in physics does not stop with college students, however.
By studying alternative teaching methods, Krasicky seeks to be a better educator by presenting his findings to other teachers at conferences for organizations such as the American Association of Physics Teachers or the Cornell Institute for Physics Teachers.
also brings demonstrations to science fairs for local youngsters.
"The idea is to try to bring the learning of science to the broader community.
Young students, kindergarteners, first, second graders - they love physics demos," he
"I did a physics workshop here one time for visiting students from [local schools] ... Teachers were trying to keep them orderly, but they were all jumping up and down, screaming.
And that's the whole point: jumping up and down, screaming and having a good time," he
said that an understanding of the basic physical laws that govern how the world works is essential for responsible citizens.
To provide a greater understanding of our universe and its rules to numerous students around the country, Krasicky
will continue to pile those physics toys into his
already messy office, because for him, teaching is, "a passion, a personal responsibility, a rewarding vocation and fun."