Now, as a particle physicist who specializes in building instruments to study particles called neutrinos, he volunteers every year to teach the kinds of introductory classes that changed his own life.

Not every student in his classes will put aside their plans to study neutrinos for a living. But Schmitz hopes that, whatever their career, everyone leaves “impacted by a year of deep study of physics and recognizing how cool it is, its connection to the things around them and its impact in the world.” .

To further these achievements, Schmitz strives to show students just how fundamental physics is all around them – from seeing how Maxwell’s electromagnetism equations explain how an electric motor works to looking at color patterns which are created when oil floats on water. in the streets after a rain to understand how light waves interfere.

“Demonstrations and examples are always great,” he says, “and when I can, I try to do that with research material or even things the students might have at home or around them. in addition to specialized demonstration equipment. In a wave class, I like to bring my guitar to class to illustrate standing waves. In electricity and magnetism, I will use examples from my own research in particle physics where fundamental E&M is everywhere.

In doing so, Schmitz seeks to emphasize that the physics problems he asks students to solve are not completely abstract: “These are not just textbook topics to test your math skills, though they certainly do too.”

“I’m always looking for ways to highlight connections, both connections between different concepts within physics, as well as between physics and the world around us,” he said. “There is a real thrill in making these connections that has never faded for me, and I love sharing that with students every year.”

Faculty Award for Excellence in Higher Education and Mentoring

Matthias Haase, Assistant Professor of Philosophy

As a university student in Germany years ago, Matthias Haase learned a valuable lesson that he has taken with him ever since. “We were reading Kant and the teacher said, ‘If you are puzzled, hold your puzzlement; if everything seems intelligible to you, that’s a terrible sign,” recalls Haase.

Now an assistant professor of philosophy whose research interests span ethics, moral psychology, philosophy of action, and German idealism, Haase still holds firmly to that advice. “The only way to get to understand is to be puzzled and more and more puzzled,” he said. “Only then are you on a more important matter.”