Pacific University’s physics professor, Todd Duncan, was nominated to receive an Outstanding Educator: Higher Education Award. The award is granted to educators that display excellence in teaching within any of the disciplines in the Oregon Academy of Sciences (OAS). Duncan will be one of two professors statewide to receive the award at the Oregon Academy of Science’s annual conference on Feb. 23 later this month.
According to the OAS president, Andrew Baggett, Duncan was selected for the reward in recognition of his considerable creativity in physics education at Pacific University and Portland Community College.
Duncan states that being nominated by his Pacific colleagues for the award helped confirm his feeling that teaching at the university was the right place for him to be.
“I just kind of had a sense this was a really good place be,” Duncan said. “It felt like what I do and my approach to teaching would really fit in here.”
Duncan says that he feels the most fulfillments from being able to introduce people to new wonders of the world around them. He notes how he felt that students were immediately able to resonate with his way of teaching.
“That was one of the nice things about getting the award,” Duncan said. “Having students come back to talk to me and mention that I had awaken these wonders for them is really satisfying, it lets me know that I did what I wanted to do.”
Duncan has been helping students in Pacific non-science disciplines by introducing ways that physics can be applied to their primary areas of study. He feels as if learning the physics perspective of composers or playwrights can help performers understand a different side of their performance.
“Physics is everywhere and I want to be able to help show that to people,” Duncan said.
Duncan helped to introduce physics and cosmic perspectives to performers in 2017’s Pacific University Cosmic Concert and 2018’s Pacific Theatre production of Silent Sky.
Duncan says that one of his current goals at Pacific is to have more telescope viewings with Pacific’s Physics Club. He also hopes that he can help to establish an observatory in Carlton, Ore.