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Feb. 27, 2019

The law of physics

Feb. 27, 2019

“It should be possible to explain the laws of physics to a barmaid.” Depending on what source you find, either Albert Einstein or Ernest Rutherford, known as the father of physics, once said some version of that quote. Well, once upon a time I wasn’t a barmaid, but I was a 17-year-old student, sitting in class wishing I understood physics a little bit better. I fumbled my way through the year — neither acing nor failing the class.   

It wasn’t that the teacher was necessarily bad, he just wasn’t teaching in a way that connected with the way I learned. He tried to make things fun — I even joined the afterschool physics club to earn some extra credit. We built toothpick bridges and had treasure hunts that required solving physics problems, but it was always a bit of a struggle for me. And, that was just a high school class.

Needless to say, I didn’t attempt a physics course once I got to college. It is a fascinating field, but one I do best with by observing from afar. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t take me long to find people with a similar experience to mine. MSU’s Danny Caballero says that when he tells people he teaches physics, he often gets negative reactions.

But, maybe if I had been taught by him, I would have figured it out and found a way to love it. Or, at least a way to like it. He and his colleagues are reinventing teaching college-level physics. Check out the MSUTODAY FEATURE: Changing the way physics is taught,” to learn about the innovative way he approaches the curriculum.

Just because I didn’t study a hard science, doesn’t mean I don’t understand the absolute necessity of complex research and discovery. Every single day, Spartans are making strides in all kinds of labs around the globe. They are curious about our world (and beyond) and determined to find ways to make it better. Sometimes, scientists are even advocating for their field.

Recently, a group of students from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with legislative staffs to highlight federally funded research programs. Brandon Rohnke, a graduate student who participated, found how “easy, yet essential, it is to advocate for science.” Check out his STUDENT VIEW: Advocating for science, to learn more about his experience.  

Science is key to healthy lives. Without scientific research, cures, treatments, preventive vaccines and more wouldn’t be part of our lives. For many people in the world, the biggest obstacle to primary care is where they live. Gary Willyerd, associate dean for the College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Detroit site, aims to deliver care to those who need it as leader of the Global Outreach Program. Read his FACULTY VOICE: Bringing health and wellness to Peru, to learn about the trips he’s taken with students, physicians and others to provide needed care.

As Spartans, we play to our strengths. Whether we’re teachers, scientists, advocates, healers or writers, we use the knowledge we have to make a positive impact. We often look at things from a different angle, figure out a new approach, stand up to be heard and even save lives. It doesn’t take the law of physics or a complicated theory to know that Spartans are a force for good. #SpartansWill.  

Lisa Mulcrone
Editor, MSUToday
twitter bird@LMulcrone


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