Florida Gulf Coast University’s Michael Fauerbach has been elected to the chair line of the APS Forum on Education. He will serve as Vice Chair this year and Chair Elect in 2013. Fauerbach’s chair year will be 2014.
Fauerbach earned his Ph.D. in 1997 from Michigan State University. After two years at Florida State University as a postdoc, he joined the Physics Faculty at the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science in 1999, where he taught physics and astronomy and supervised student research projects. He joined Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) in the fall of 2000 as an Assistant Professor of Physics & Astronomy. His duties at FGCU, which had been founded only three years before, included not only teaching classes, but also to developing new courses and curriculum in physics and astronomy, as well as selection of equipment for the soon to be constructed on-campus observatory. His research focus shifted from experimental nuclear physics to observational astronomy –primarily the study of physical properties of asteroids.
Fauerbach won FGCU’s Teaching Excellence Award in 2005, and then served on the committee that wrote Florida’s new science standards in 2007-2008. He has also been a member of the Advisory Board of the Florida Space Grant Consortium since 2001, serving as Associate Director in 2010-2011.
In his candidate statement, Fauerbach said that during his upbringing in Germany he was “exposed to hands-on and inquiry-based learning long before they became buzz words.” He continued,
As a parent, I want my children –all children- to have a similar experience in their lives. I feel strongly that it is our responsibility as physics professionals –together with our colleagues in the other STEM professions- to make this a reality. Too often we complain about ill prepared students in our classrooms, but what can we do to change this? We have to set an example by how we engage our students in and outside the classroom. After all, our students are potential voters that can influence policy decisions. If we show them the role STEM fields play in their everyday life and if we are good role models in the way we teach and employ research-based pedagogy, they will in turn demand from policy makers that their children will have similar experiences. Too many children are turned off by science because of poor experiences early in their education and in turn they don’t pursue further studies in the field. Unfortunately, our job does not end there. In order to make this a reality we have to be engaged in pre-service teacher preparation as well as in-service teacher professional development. We have to give educators the tools to use hands-on and inquiry based lessons, despite the growing demands on them, by growing class sizes and the pressures of standardized testing. We have to show policy makers and the general public that elects them –via public talks, writing of op-eds, etc.- the effects that short term budget solutions can have on the long term outlook for society.