Dear [insert here],
I’m writing this letter to recommend to you the great qualities I have seen in Dr. Wiegert, my former physics professor. I can proudly say that he was one of the most influential people I encountered in my undergraduate career.
When I was first looking at the physics courses, I immediately recognized Dr. Wiegert as an exceptional teacher. At the time there were three physics classes available: a physics for non-majors, non-calculus based; a physics for non-majors, calculus based; and a physics for majors, calculus based. Dr. Wiegert taught the first and third, while someone else taught the second. I attended the first lecture of all three, as I was not sure what professor to take. I was also looking for a calculus-based class though it was not required for my major (biochemistry).
It was immediately evident to me that Dr. Wiegert was exceptional. I first suspected this from his syllabus. His policies were well-thought out and fair. For example, he allowed students to replace one of their test scores with the final exam, taking into account improvement over the semester. He also required regular homework problem sets turned in each week online, something that I found to be critical in organic chemistry and which I also suspected would be critical for physics.
When I attended his classes, I found that he spoke clearly and in an approachable manner, describing physics in terms we readily understood. His passion for the subject was evident, overflowing from him in his gestures, movements, voice and eye contact with us.
However, what impressed me most was that he required his students to fill out an introductory sheet about themselves so that he could get to know them. Even more amazing, he required all of his students to sign up for a five minute appointment to discuss this sheet and talk with him about themselves and their course needs – even in his large class of approximately 80-100 students.
Every professor I have had in the past that has asked students to fill out intro sheets have always been exceptional – Dr. Wiegert went beyond the call of duty in actually meeting with his students personally. I was very impressed. After seeing him teach the non-calculus based section, I knew I had to be in his calculus-based majors class. At the time, it had a class size of fifteen. That was one of the best choices I made in my undergraduate career.
Throughout the semester, in every class period and in every illustration he gave, Dr. Wiegert continued to exhibit tremendous passion for physics that made it a pleasure to learn. He clearly explained the necessary mathematics and used illustrations for concepts that were readily accessible to us.
Every homework problem set challenged us each to the core, taking us to our limits and asking for a little bit more. To really do well, we students had to work together and brainstorm, something I had never found helpful before, but for physics, it worked great. Each week, everyone would come to his office hours to ask questions – a necessity that Dr. Wiegert expected from us to really understand and correctly answer the problems. Rather than answering our questions out right, he would ask us questions, getting us to think about the problems in new ways, until we could eventually arrive at the answer ourselves.
For the physics labs, Dr. Wiegert added an additional aspect – coding in Pymol. I had never written code before, but I discovered to my surprise, that it was a lot more fun and rewarding than I expected. Modeling systems with Pymol was one of my favorite aspects of the labs.
Dr. Wiegert managed to weave every class he taught into an elaborate story that made me realize how pervasive physics was around me and how foundational a discipline. It left me in awe. As the semester went on, I started seeing the world in terms of physics. I talked more to my friends on Facebook and in real life about physics than any other class. Facebook has an application that counts the most common words used in the last few months. One of the top five words of ten listed at the time was “physics,” which people said amused them, since I wasn’t a physics major.
Probably my favorite class in my entire undergraduate career was the last day of second semester physics. In it, Dr. Wiegert combined everything we had learned conceptually and mathematically in both the first and second semester to show us why the speed of light was constant. It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen and my mouth was hanging open by the end of it. I’ll never forget that class.
Dr. Wiegert was very conscientious of his students. It was obvious that he really cared about us and really wanted to see us learn well. When I caught mono during the finals of the second semester, Dr. Wiegert was very accommodating in allowing me to delay the exam so that I could recover. But he also challenged us, holding the bar high. He expected us to read the assignments, work hard, think and turn in work on time. I really respected him for that.
More than anyone else, Dr. Wiegert shaped my learning experience at UGA and infused in me a love of physics I never expected to have. He showed me that I could truly learn and understand complex concepts and problems, giving me greater confidence in myself. I believe it is partly because of his influence that in graduate school at Emory, I became interested in a professor who primarily studies and measures mechanical force inside of cells. Even today, I feel Dr. Wiegert’s influence on my life through my work and I will be forever grateful to him for opening my eyes to the amazing world of physics.
Note: I told Dr. Wiegert about Dr. Salaita sometime in April very excitedly - Dr. Wiegert is the most active professor on Facebook I know besides Dr. Parker at Oxford; the stories he tells about his students are down right hilarious! His statuses *always* make me laugh - and I said to him something like, "Wow Dr. Wiegert! Isn't this amazing?! I never thought I'd have a use for physics much, but maybe all your good teaching won't have been wasted on me after all!" And he asked me some questions about what kinds of force measurements Dr. Salaita was doing. I need to go back and make sure I answer him properly on that, come to think of it.
Dear [insert here],
What's going on in my corner of the science world? Find out here!
Rolling Statuses: Technical journal blog. Here you may discover what the daily life of a grad student looks like: day-to-day snippets of life, clutter, rolling statuses and unimportant fluff.
Progress Updates: Will include entries with more meaningful science.
Weekly lab report: My write-ups on what I did each week (I posted these publicly during my rotation but not as much now. That may change.)
Here is a link to collected writing, poster and presentation tips.
As of February 8, 2014 I have officially joined the Salaita lab!! Very exciting. Stay tuned for updates. "Micro Min" category equates to grad school journaling; most of these have moved to my status updates blog under Home tab. See "progress updates" on this blog for more important news.