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Erich Vogt : an inspirational physics professor Poon, Alan Jun 19, 2014

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Erich Vogt  An Inspirational Physics Professor Alan PoonLawrence Berkeley National LaboratoryThe general goals of any undergraduate physics course are:to impart knowledge of the physics content; to enhance the students’ sense of wonder, which is such an important human attribute, especially for the pursuit of science; to develop the students’ analytical skills, which are essential not only for understanding physics but for almost any other field of human inquiry; to describe how science works and how effective mathematics is for this purpose; to contribute to life changing experiences, which should be part of a university education; and to make the course a challenge to the intellect and an enjoyable learning experience.Am. J. Phys. 75, 581 (2007)Sense of WonderVideo: courtesy of Tel Aviv Universityhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rtc3-5jsTEMLink to video clip:  [from 1:33 to 2:02]Sense of WonderVideo: courtesy of Tel Aviv University“I was growing up on the prairies,...because the village had very few lights, the sky was very brilliant – you even could see things like Andromeda, the nebula in the Milky Way – and I wondered what it was all about. And you know, one of the biggest gifts we have...is the human sense of wonder. I had a great deal of pleasure growing up in a rural community in which you were close to the forest and the birds and the stars, and that’s what got me interested in nature.” (UBC Physics Newsletter, 2009/01)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rtc3-5jsTEMLink to video clip:  [from 2:02 to 3:42]Sense of WonderMy first Physics 120 assignment…Sense of WonderA typical solution handout Sense of WonderErich’s favourite: Olbers’ Paradox“In first year physics there are endless opportunities to excite wonder and to make the students’ eyes light up.  One example that illustrates what works for me is Olber’s Paradox...for which the proper formulation of the question leads to an analogy with the logic of Gauss’ theorem in electromagnetism and the shell theorem for gravity inside the Earth.  Beyond its helpfulness as an analogy, the paradox remains deeply embedded in the students’ minds because it teaches them how astonishingly simple observations can raise profound questions.”Am. J. Phys. 75, 581 (2007)On teachingVideo: courtesy of UBC Archives and UBC Legacy Projecthttp://digitalcollections.library.ubc.ca/cdm/singleitem/collection/ubcavfrc/id/63Link to video clip:  [from 25:02 to 26:29]“...and that you care.”-Euweng Chan(P107, 2009)“...and that you care.”He loved to be surrounded by studentsCUPC 2012Physics 107The demosI believe his students' favourite demo was "Rocket Propulsion", in which he sat on a swivel chair and used a CO2 fire extinguisher to spin himself around at dangerous angular velocities. I suspect it was also his favourite.- Jess Brewer...and the story of an injured Erich during one of his demosGetting attention of the studentsThe first class on my first day of university was Phys 120 in Hebb Theatre.  Erich was the professor...There was a chair out at the front of the theatre and sitting on it was an apple. Erich comes in and begins his lecture.  About half way through it, he makes some reference to Newton or gravity or some such thing and then the apple suddenly rises up to the rafters.  Can't remember the joke Erich made but the levitating apple stuck in my head.  Of course that was only the tiniest hint at Erich's sense of humour.  I remember Erich once proudly explaining to me how he got into trouble playing a funeral dirge on a piano at the armoury as students marched in for their Christmas exams.                                        - Fraser DuncanExamples of Erich getting attention of the students through well-meaning pranks:• Called out students’ names at random times and asked for their inputs• Threw money at the students who caught his mistakesChallenge the studentsVideo: courtesy of UBC Archives and UBC Legacy Projecthttp://digitalcollections.library.ubc.ca/cdm/singleitem/collection/ubcavfrc/id/63Link to video clip:  [from 3:21 to 4:11]Challenge the studentsFirst class“Systematic appraisals of the course and the teacher are valuable, but high ratings should never be achieved, as often happens, by easy examinations or otherwise reducing the challenge.”             - E.W. Vogt, Am. J. Phys. 75, 581 (2007)Grade distribution for the first semester:Challenge the students“Systematic appraisals of the course and the teacher are valuable, but high ratings should never be achieved, as often happens, by easy examinations or otherwise reducing the challenge.”             - E.W. Vogt, Am. J. Phys. 75, 581 (2007)Mark distribution for the first mid-term in the second semester:An excellent teacherErichOther UBC Physics profs with response count > 18Data obtained publicly from ratemyprofessor.com (June 2014)Dedication to teachingWhen I get up in the morning, and consider who I am, I think of myself as a teacher, first and foremost.  Well, after being a father and grandfather.I had a deal with my department...namely that I would teach — when I made this deal I was not being paid — but I would teach as long as I achieved some of the highest student ratings in the department, and if that was no longer true, then I would stop.- E.W. VogtUBC Physics & Astronomy Newsletter (2009)…Impact on studentsI think my effect on young students has been, for me, more important than creating TRIUMF or the things that I was able to achieve as a research physicist.Over four decades, I have taught more than five thousand first-year students.  I constantly meet former students in many professions who took my course many years ago.  It is a special joy to hear what impact my physics course has made in their lives.- E.W. Vogt, Am. J. Phys. 75, 587 (2007), and UBC P&A newsletter (2009)Impact on studentsThey decided, as a result of the course, to go in a completely different direction.  That’s an awesome responsibility because when it happens — for the good, you know — you think “that’s perhaps the best feedback I know of”.  In fact, I think the best feedback about teaching is the considered opinion of people years later about which teachers really matter.- E.W. Vogt, UBC P&A newsletter (2009)A personal noteI took Erich’s Physics 120 class (co-taught by Bill Dalby) in the 1987-88 academic year.  There have been four mentors (all Canadians) who have made lasting impacts on my career.  More importantly, they are the role models for me to learn how to be a better human being.   Erich is one of them.  If I had not taken his class, which helped me discover my passion in physics, I probably would not be wondering the elusive behavior of neutrinos now. Thank you, Erich.  Rest in peace. AcknowledgementsProf. David Andelman, Prof. Doug Beder, Prof. Jess Brewer, Mr. Euweng Chan, Mrs. Penny Crowe, Dr. Fraser Duncan, Prof. Aksel Hallin, Prof. Wick Haxton, Prof. Ernest Henley, Mr. Chris König, Ms. Theresa Liao, Prof. Janis McKenna, Dr. Marcello Pavan, Ms. Krista Sheppard, Mr. David Swinnard, Prof. Brian TurrellI thank Tel Aviv University for giving me the permission to show video clips from the lectures that Erich delivered in January 2009.  You can watch the lectures in their entirety at:I thank the UBC Archives and the UBC Legacy Project for giving me the permission to show clips from Erich’s interview, which was conducted on March 18, 2013.  The entire interview can be found in:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rtc3-5jsTEMhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__RhApdTWgQhttp://digitalcollections.library.ubc.ca/cdm/singleitem/collection/ubcavfrc/id/63

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