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Grad schools emphasizing teaching

  1. Aug 28, 2013 #1
    Hello all,

    I'm looking for advice from people in any physics/astronomy/astrophysics graduate program. If you're short on time, please feel free to skip to the last paragraph; I would really appreciate any help. I did my undergraduate degrees in physics and math, and if you don't mind me tooting my own horn a little, I did really well. I had no trouble getting into a top-tier physics grad school and I was pretty excited to take that well-beaten track "grad school-->postdoc(s)-->tenure track at R1". Then my life fell apart. I won't go into too much detail, but a combination of severe personal problems and the sheer workload proved to be too much, my motivation and passion dropped to zero, and I made a right mess of things.

    Anyway, two years in I took my Masters and ran. I was seriously depressed. Physics is the only thing I've ever wanted to do with my life (seriously --- my parents have videos of my 3-year-old self), and suddenly I found myself in a deep hole with seemingly no way to climb back up. But then my undergrad institution called and offered me a short-term teaching position. And coming back to the place that helped shape and develop my career so far has clarified a few things for me: I don't want to be at an R1. I don't want to have the publish-or-perish mentality and I don't need to do foundational research to be happy. My true passion lies in teaching, in those formative moments when a spark lights up in someone's eyes, in helping people to understand the subject that I love.

    So I'm ready to go back, to a different institution, and finish my Ph.D. I want to focus on schools with a small to medium-sized department, with strong collegiality, where undergraduates are encouraged to research early and graduate students get strong teaching experience in addition to their primary research. Do any of you know of such an institution or have first-hand recommendations? I'm putting together my preliminary list of places to apply and I would really appreciate any input on the subject.

  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 29, 2013 #2


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    The University of Wyoming isn't too hard to get into, and they have a strong physics education department. A few friends of mine graduated from there and loved it. U of Arizona also has a great physics education program, but they are much harder to get into.
  4. Aug 29, 2013 #3
    Sounds like the College of William & Mary is exactly what you're looking for. They have the only physics phd program that puts explicit importance on gaining teaching experience I have seen. Word of mouth I've heard from a my senior adviser corroborates this.
  5. Sep 4, 2013 #4
    Interesting. William and Mary and Arizona were schools I looked into when I applied the first time around, but didn't actually end up applying to. I'll have to give all three a closer look. Thanks to both of you!
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