Why do Physics Professors Always Seem Unhappy?

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  • #1
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A humorous question, though real enough. Now that I've had a few I can't help but compare them to those in other sciences. They often sound dissatisfied, or as if teaching is a huge struggle. Just an unlucky streak, or something more?
 
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  • #2
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I had a physics professor who would get so excited that when he got to the end of the chalkboard he would continue writing on the wall. I think you're biased by a small sample size.
 
  • #3
SteamKing
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Probably teaching physics students.
 
  • #4
AlephZero
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It's because of quantum mechanics. They are worried that if a student actually observes what they are talking about in a lecture, they might find out they were already dead.

So they have to try really really hard to make sure no students ever understand anything....
 
  • #5
Pythagorean
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about 90% of my physics professors were pretty jovial.
 
  • #6
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Probably teaching physics students.

You've confirmed my secret fears:)
 
  • #7
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Most of mine have seem cool.
 
  • #8
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I've encountered some quite friendly Physics Professors (mind you via email) such as Howard Carmichael from U. of Auckland, and Andrew Greentree from U. of Melbourne.
 
  • #9
phinds
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My own experience, quite some time ago, was that physics profs were among the most energetic and engaging off all my profs. I think your generalization is WAY off the mark.
 
  • #10
turbo
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If you want dull, uninspiring profs, find one that is a drinker and has to teach introductory calculus at 8am.
 
  • #11
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Mine have always been brilliant but I'm a mature student. One professor did admit that its disheartening when they get younger students that have no real interest in physics but are taking it to get high paid work or their parents have pushed them into it.
 
  • #12
Hepth
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Mine have always been brilliant but I'm a mature student. One professor did admit that its disheartening when they get younger students that have no real interest in physics but are taking it to get high paid work or their parents have pushed them into it.

It's a combination of the fact that they didn't persue physics to teach, and even though they don't mind it, first year college students now act like the professor did in freshman year of high school. No respect, late, talking, cheating, playing on their phones, etc. No comprehension of why their there, and no appreciation for the lecture.

It's very disheartening.
 
  • #13
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It's a combination of the fact that they didn't persue physics to teach, and even though they don't mind it, first year college students now act like the professor did in freshman year of high school. No respect, late, talking, cheating, playing on their phones, etc. No comprehension of why their there, and no appreciation for the lecture.

It's very disheartening.

I'm in the UK and unfortunately our education system isn't as flexible as that in the US. We specialise at 16 which in my opinion is far too early. I would hate to teach something I'm passionate about to kids/young adults who couldn't care less about maths or physics.
 
  • #14
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Imagine having to explain entropy to new students every year...
 
  • #15
Professors may think about changing their teaching methods along with their own rules for all students in their classes.
 
  • #16
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Imagine having to explain entropy to new students every year...

:rofl:
 
  • #17
It's a combination of the fact that they didn't persue physics to teach, and even though they don't mind it, first year college students now act like the professor did in freshman year of high school. No respect, late, talking, cheating, playing on their phones, etc. No comprehension of why their there, and no appreciation for the lecture.

It's very disheartening.

Do you think people must respect you if you respect them ?:) Did you ever show them or make them understand that is your class ? This shouldnt be too harsh, you can offer them some work to do 10-15 minutes after the class starts, for example to keep them in time for their classes,more.....etc. I used to take a math class that i had to do my 20 min test every day
 
  • #18
HayleySarg
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Do you think people must respect you if you respect them ?:) Did you ever show them or make them understand that is your class ? This shouldnt be too harsh, you can offer them some work to do 10-15 minutes after the class starts, for example to keep them in time for their classes,more.....etc. I used to take a math class that i had to do my 20 min test every day

I think that as a student, it's absolutely ridiculous that you need to be "shown" how to come to lecture properly. These are not signs of respect, but general skills of maturity and adulthood. It's not respect to:

1) come to class on time, or even a tad early and sit down quietly
2) pay attention or at least, be quietly doing something else college related (ie working on problem sets if the material of the lecture is boring to you)
3) ask questions in a well thought out and concise manner

And to not:

1) eat in class unless the lecturer says otherwise (some are upfront in not caring about this, I had a late in the day calc course where she gave us 15 minutes to snack on something as a break)
2) talk out of turn
3) be on your phone/texting/gaming on your laptop/whathave you

I'm sorry, but my mentor when I did my research internship put it best

"I don't like teaching the freshman. They come into my home, my lecture hall, and act like they own the place. Feet up on the desks, chomping loudly on their food and completely devoid of any interest in the class"

This is just basic adulthood. Now, respect can be addressing your professor in the proper manner, respecting even their most trivial wishes, going out of your way to make their lives a little easier, etc.
 
  • #19
ZombieFeynman
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I think that as a student, it's absolutely ridiculous that you need to be "shown" how to come to lecture properly. These are not signs of respect, but general skills of maturity and adulthood. It's not respect to:

1) come to class on time, or even a tad early and sit down quietly
2) pay attention or at least, be quietly doing something else college related (ie working on problem sets if the material of the lecture is boring to you)
3) ask questions in a well thought out and concise manner

And to not:

1) eat in class unless the lecturer says otherwise (some are upfront in not caring about this, I had a late in the day calc course where she gave us 15 minutes to snack on something as a break)
2) talk out of turn
3) be on your phone/texting/gaming on your laptop/whathave you

I'm sorry, but my mentor when I did my research internship put it best

"I don't like teaching the freshman. They come into my home, my lecture hall, and act like they own the place. Feet up on the desks, chomping loudly on their food and completely devoid of any interest in the class"

This is just basic adulthood. Now, respect can be addressing your professor in the proper manner, respecting even their most trivial wishes, going out of your way to make their lives a little easier, etc.

Students are paying to be there. Professors are not paying students to be there. As long as students are not disrupting others, I don't give a damn what the professor's trivial wishes are.

Who cares if a student is eating quietly, sleeping, or silently playing on their phone/laptop/gameboy/tamogatchi. I think it is solely THAT student's loss and the professor should ignore it and get off their high horse. But that doesn't mean the professor has to be HAPPY about it. I just don't think it needs to be addressed.
 
  • #20
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All of my professors seem to be quite happy people. My physics professor seems to be by far one of the most jovial german people I have met.
 
  • #21
lisab
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Well, the OP and I must be the odd ones out. Many of my physics profs seemed distracted or aloof, like they would rather be just about anywhere that wasn't too close to undergrads.

But then again, most were old, and I know several had health issues. So perhaps they were just not feeling well.
 
  • #22
AlephZero
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Many of my physics profs seemed distracted or aloof, like they would rather be just about anywhere that wasn't too close to undergrads.

I still remember the physics prof who gave an E&M course for mathematicians, who was the sort of scotsman you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alleyway after a heavy saturday night's drinking session.. He once broke off in the middle of a lecture into a torrent of incomprehensible noises (possibly ancient gaelic curses?) which ended with "... and moderrrrrn underrrrgrrrrraduates arrrre an abominable excrrrrrescence on the face of this univerrrrrrrsity. ..."

Actually he had some grounds for cursing us. There were two lecterns at opposite sides of the blackboard, and he used to do sentry-duty marching up and down between them while lecturing. We moved them slightly closer together, and counted the number of times he stubbed his toes against them. The "record" was over 100 in a 1-hour lecture. He never figured out the easy way to fix the problem!
 
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  • #23
HayleySarg
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Students are paying to be there. Professors are not paying students to be there. As long as students are not disrupting others, I don't give a damn what the professor's trivial wishes are.

Who cares if a student is eating quietly, sleeping, or silently playing on their phone/laptop/gameboy/tamogatchi. I think it is solely THAT student's loss and the professor should ignore it and get off their high horse. But that doesn't mean the professor has to be HAPPY about it. I just don't think it needs to be addressed.

Eh, to each their own. I find that it's disruptive and if you don't want to be there, don't go. Period.

That being said, I don't think the professor should have to repeat themselves about how one conducts themselves in class. There is what's proper, and in a sense, you're absolutely correct that it's not really anything but trivial wishes. If an individual is lacking in maturity, that's not the professors issue, that's the students.

But to me, it's just a waste of space. Come to class to learn, or don't come at all.
 
  • #24
Chronos
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They are worried about getting their next paper published while marionetting a class of uninspired morons. Who wouldn't be grumpy?
 
  • #25
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You pay to go out for dinner but there's still etiquette to uphold!
 
  • #26
DrClaude
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Students are paying to be there.
I paid, therefore I am entitled. Yes, this sums up the problem pretty well.
 
  • #27
ZombieFeynman
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I'm not saying the students should be able to do anything they'd like since they pay to be there. There is a minimum expected level of decorum. I just disagree with some of you where that level is.

I have lectured before during summer and winter sessions as well as been a TA during normal semesters. I find it much easier to focus on reaching the students that DO want to learn rather than worrying about a few people having a snack or playing on their phone. As far as I'm concerned, they are not there in my classroom (mentally for certain). I would much rather make my class as engaging as possible for students that are trying to learn.

These people are only a distraction if I let myself be distracted by them. Instead, ( especially when my students are pre-med and biology students, where knowledge of projectile motion, for example, is peripheral to their success at best) I try to make my lectures as interesting and engaging as possible to make it IMPOSSIBLE not to WANT to pay attention.

I never have 100% success rates, but I like my method.

I feel it's more effective than being authoritarian in trying to stop each little infraction upon my beautiful perfect lectures. <-- /Sarcasm
 
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  • #28
Vanadium 50
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I was giving a seminar once, and one of the student's cell phone rang. She took the call - right there in the classroom, she was yakking away. Apparently, there was a rumor going around that her boyfriend was cheating on her, and she didn't want the rumor to spread. <facepalm>
 
  • #29
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A humorous question, though real enough. Now that I've had a few I can't help but compare them to those in other sciences. They often sound dissatisfied, or as if teaching is a huge struggle. Just an unlucky streak, or something more?

I think it's your relative observation or perception.
 
  • #30
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I think it does matter:
  • How recently you actually went to undergraduate school in physics
  • What the financial and political environment is like at your school
And if you're talking about just knowing them in class, rather than out of class or during research it's going to depend entirely on whether or not it is an intro to physics class at 8 am with a ratio of students who don't care to students who do care of 99:1.

The reason I bring up history is because physics teachers during the time of the space age and atomic age were probably pretty enthusiastic because the field was growing, and students were interested. Today, physics is a lot more dead and produces less graduates.

(Systems theory, a child of ecology and cybernetics, however, appears to be on the upswing.)
 
  • #31
lisab
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I think it does matter:
  • How recently you actually went to undergraduate school in physics
  • What the financial and political environment is like at your school
And if you're talking about just knowing them in class, rather than out of class or during research it's going to depend entirely on whether or not it is an intro to physics class at 8 am with a ratio of students who don't care to students who do care of 99:1.

The reason I bring up history is because physics teachers during the time of the space age and atomic age were probably pretty enthusiastic because the field was growing, and students were interested. Today, physics is a lot more dead and produces less graduates.

(Systems theory, a child of ecology and cybernetics, however, appears to be on the upswing.)

:surprised Nice to see you, where the hell you been?! Welcome back!
 
  • #32
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Thanks lisab, :)
I turned into a butterfly and decided to fly around.
Now I'm back in the cocoon phase. Nice to see you again.
 
  • #33
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My physics professor is always so joyful and tells us jokes and teaching us physics at the same time. Goes to show how well he understands physics and enjoys his work.
 

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