UW-Stout Physics Professor Wins UW System Achievement Award

April 6—MENOMONIE — After more than 20 years, Professor Laura McCullough’s motivation when she enters the classroom at UW-Stout has not changed.

“On the first day of class, I tell my students that I’m not here to teach them physics; I’m here to help them learn physics. It’s all about them,” McCullough said.

McCullough’s dedication to his profession and his students is recognized by the UW system with an Excellence in Teaching Award, the system’s highest honor. She is one of three faculties in the UW system to receive the award Friday at the Board of Regents meeting at UW-Stevens Point.

“These outstanding educators at UW inspire students and their colleagues to reach their full potential,” said Regent Cris Peterson, chair of the selection committee. “We celebrate their dedication and innovative approaches to student success.”

Physics, for some students, can be intimidating. McCullough’s goal is to make it less intimidating, especially for students studying physics at the college level for the first time.

“I like to take a room full of students who may be terrified of physics and bring them to a place where they are not only comfortable with physics, but also actively able to see and engage in the science that surrounds us every day. I love helping students who are certain they’re going to fail realize that not only can they learn this stuff, but they can benefit from it,” McCullough said in a statement. Press.

McCullough’s teaching philosophy is student-centered. It has been using standards-based scoring for 10 years; students must achieve learning objectives that demonstrate their understanding of the subject matter, a method that supports students with learning disabilities. It also includes course content and work placement activities.

“In today’s college, the goal of grades should be a demonstration of learning, not a comparison with other students,” said McCullough, who teaches in the chemistry and physics department.

In 2021, she won the UW-Stout Outstanding Educator Award in the College of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Management.

McCullough knew in high school that she wanted to teach college physics. She obtained a bachelor’s and master’s degree in physics and a doctorate. in science education, the first from Hamline University and the other two from the University of Minnesota. She began teaching at UW-Stout in 2000.

“I love sharing my passion for the science of the physical world with my students. UW-Stout is a perfect place to do all of this, with its emphasis on hands-on work and its emphasis on the convenience of being a polytechnic university, ” she says.

So in his classroom, students could: see McCullough use a balloon to help explain static electricity charges and how to use an electroscope; having to wire a bulb with a battery; use a slinky to understand sound waves; use a popper toy to help understand energy; and use a sound level meter, mirror, and guitar for more hands-on examples.

“I have so many demonstrations and activities designed to engage my students in doing science and not just thinking about it, and UW-Stout supports that style of learning,” she said.

UW-Stout offers a minor in physics and a concentration in applied physics as part of the applied science program.

“While Dr. McCullough teaches physics at all levels, she is especially passionate about teaching physics at the entry level,” said Glendali Rodriguez, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. “She wants to have a positive impact on students’ critical thinking and the development of understanding at the start of their college education. Her success is evident in strong enrollments in her courses and outstanding instructor evaluations, a reflection of her practices. student-centered teaching.

McCullough’s primary research interest is gender and science, particularly women in physics and STEM fields.

She published the book “Women and Physics” in 2016 and developed a website on gender bias in physics, which came about through a grant from the National Science Foundation. She presents her research regionally and nationally, has served on the UW System’s Advisory Board on Women and Science for nearly 20 years, and was co-team leader of the U.S. delegation to the International Conference on Women in Science. physics from 2019 to 2021.

“When I started my graduate studies in physics, I was the only woman in a group of 20, which made me realize that there was a big problem in physics,” she said. “Despite decades of effort, women continue to be underrepresented in many STEM fields, including my own. Only 20% of physics degrees are awarded to women, yet women make up more than 50% university graduates.

“Many people who would be great assets to the field are put off or rejected by STEM as it is currently taught and practiced, and this is a terrible waste of talent and enthusiasm. We should want to improve the representation of minority groups for simple fairness, but if that’s not reason enough, think of all the discoveries that will never be made and the work that will be undone because of the people who have been turned away.”

Recipients of the statewide Excellence in Teaching Award each receive $7,500.

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