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An Interview with Cap'n Refsmmat


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#21 michel123456

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Posted 12 November 2011 - 07:38 PM

(...) On the other hand, I'm an assistant for a physics course this semester, (...)
On the other hand, I enjoy teaching, (...)
I have learned a lot about teaching, (...)


I don't understand the above.
What do you call an "assistant"?
Is it "Assistant Professor"? Don't you need a PhD for such a position?
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Michel what have you done?


#22 Cap'n Refsmmat

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Posted 12 November 2011 - 07:43 PM

I don't understand the above.
What do you call an "assistant"?
Is it "Assistant Professor"? Don't you need a PhD for such a position?

My title is "learning assistant." There are several of us, along with two graduate TAs, assigned to work with a full professor in the course. The professor is responsible for the actual teaching, while we do homework help sessions, help out in class, guide students through their projects, and so on.

It's a relatively new program, and it's become fairly popular in the physics department. Many of the introductory courses have several learning assistants who, by virtue of only having learned the material a few years ago, can answer questions and explain concepts much better than the professor can.
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#23 michel123456

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Posted 12 November 2011 - 07:52 PM

Sorry but i still don't get it.
In my times at 19 I was considered as a beginner who knew nothing.
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#24 Klaynos

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Posted 12 November 2011 - 08:03 PM

In the mathematics for physicists course I've taught in the last few years to mostly 18 and 19 year olds we're supposed to encourage peer learning, this seems to take that a step further.
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#25 Cap'n Refsmmat

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Posted 12 November 2011 - 08:41 PM

Sorry but i still don't get it.
In my times at 19 I was considered as a beginner who knew nothing.

We've taken the course before, so we know slightly more than the students we help. It's really all we need. Professors who have understood the material for thirty years often find it difficult to convey it to students who have never heard of it before, ever, so we have a slight advantage.
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#26 mooeypoo

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Posted 12 November 2011 - 09:38 PM

We've taken the course before, so we know slightly more than the students we help. It's really all we need. Professors who have understood the material for thirty years often find it difficult to convey it to students who have never heard of it before, ever, so we have a slight advantage.


We have something similar in our college but we call it a learning center, and students come to get some sort of tutoring after the main classes in math and physics. To teach/tutor advanced physics, though, you have to be a grad student. The goal is great, but we have our flukes; the requirement to teach is to have at least an A in all required courses and physics, which imho is not enough to teach. It's also why, most likely, there were barely any physics 'tutors' around in the undergrad level (other than me and one more person).

The way things are done in your campus sound pretty cool for the physics students too, seeing as you learn the subject matter better when you teach it, I just hope that not anyone can get in, and you have to demonstrate more than just "getting an A" in the class.
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#27 Cap'n Refsmmat

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Posted 12 November 2011 - 10:08 PM

The requirement is good grades in physics courses and a recommendation or two from faculty who know your teaching ability. I don't know how applications are judged, though. Our course has fairly good learning assistants, if I may judge.
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#28 Genecks

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Posted 12 November 2011 - 11:42 PM

What do you think of competing science forum websites?

It would be appreciated if you could put a reply in at least two paragraphs (take time to reply if needed).

Edited by Genecks, 12 November 2011 - 11:43 PM.

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#29 Cap'n Refsmmat

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 12:53 AM

What do you think of competing science forum websites?

It would be appreciated if you could put a reply in at least two paragraphs (take time to reply if needed).

Will this be graded?

I don't spend a lot of time on other science forum sites, so I can't judge in depth. My impression is that PhysicsForums has had some success in attracting experts and scientists to contribute, so its discussions are considerably more technically involved. They've developed a useful strategy for homework help (with experts tagged as homework helpers, so users know they're getting good advice), and they get loads of activity. I'm not a fan of the color scheme, however.

SciForums seems less technically focused, but still very active. I haven't browsed it much.

Hypography attracts my ire because they decided to switch to using scienceforums.com as their domain name, which they had owned but not used for some time. They don't seem to have many science experts, but their community is fairly active -- about the size of SFN's, although with fewer posts, it seems.

There's a number of smaller sites, like TheScienceForum (.com or .org, take your pick), Science Chat Forum, and quite a few others. I don't have much experience with any.
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#30 michel123456

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 08:49 AM

(...) I'm not a fan of the color scheme, however.
(...)


I agree. But be careful no to change it in a too fancy way.

As for your "learning assistant", that sounds great for you. But be careful not to enter naively the real world abruptly. Maybe there were some cuttings in staff in your University, maybe you are going to steal someone else's job. I guess you are not paid for this. You must know a synonym for unpaid employment. How is it possible to argue that an inexperienced teacher is better than an experienced one?

Note: at my times (again) some professors used students to help them in their private office, or even used to bring their private work as a theme of study at the University. Of course it was considered as an honour to participate because professor choose only the best students. Unpaid of course. Shame.

Edited by michel123456, 13 November 2011 - 08:51 AM.

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#31 rktpro

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 12:35 PM

Cap'n, which thread would you like to take your posts off from, if given a chance?
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#32 Cap'n Refsmmat

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 02:55 PM

As for your "learning assistant", that sounds great for you. But be careful not to enter naively the real world abruptly. Maybe there were some cuttings in staff in your University, maybe you are going to steal someone else's job. I guess you are not paid for this. You must know a synonym for unpaid employment. How is it possible to argue that an inexperienced teacher is better than an experienced one?

We're paid a modest amount for this, since the program was originally funded from a NSF grant that gave stipends to the students. We're nt going to replace any professors, since our goal is to assist the person who would already be teaching the course anyway.

It's certainly possible to argue that inexperienced teachers are better, if they're used well:

https://www.sciencem.../6031/862.short

Cap'n, which thread would you like to take your posts off from, if given a chance?

Quite a few of the threads I posted in when I first joined. I was rather annoying.
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#33 Daedalus

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 12:29 PM

Even though this is belated, congratulations Cap'n!!! I think it's really cool that you are into programming, numerical analysis, and physics. Those subjects along with finite calculus are some of my favorite areas of study. Also, teaching can be very rewarding. Currently, I am a substitute teacher for the high school where I graduated back in '98. It helps me earn a little extra money while working on my physics degree. There's nothing like talking to a few kids about physics only to have acquired the attention of the entire class. Keep up the good work. I wish you continued success throughout your collegiate years and those to come!!!

Edited by Daedalus, 30 November 2011 - 01:20 PM.

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#34 astrocat5

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Posted 10 December 2011 - 02:24 AM

Hi, Cpn' Refsmmat, I'm astrocat5 with a new Theory, one based on the evidence. I intend to use the evidence to prove my theory.
I hope you'll give me a chance to do just that. I realise this theory (the Mable Theory) is new to you, but I'm sure I can make you see the light. We'll talk later.

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#35 khaled

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Posted 20 December 2011 - 06:44 PM

I'm a theoretical computer scientist (24 years old), my inspiration are Godel, Turing, Post

I agree that one will always be learning along his life

I have noticed that SFN forum does not have resident expert in Theoretical Computer Science, neither a sub-form for that

I can't either ask others to consider me at that point, since I don't have a real degree on that

.. I have one question: do I have to have a PhD to write a research, for example do I have to have a PhD in mathematics to propose a new statistical model ?
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#36 Schrödinger's hat

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Posted 23 December 2011 - 03:46 AM

.. I have one question: do I have to have a PhD to write a research, for example do I have to have a PhD in mathematics to propose a new statistical model ?


Not at all. Although you may have a more trouble getting anyone to publish it or take it seriously if you do not.

However, you should not confuse this for people not taking your work seriously because it is not up to the same standard as that of people with degrees.

There are certain conventions, knowledge of the language used, and of results in the field that you should be comfortable with/should be apparent in your work. These will make it a lot easier for others to understand it (and thus make them more likely to consider it).
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#37 khaled

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Posted 26 December 2011 - 07:39 PM

Not at all. Although you may have a more trouble getting anyone to publish it or take it seriously if you do not.

However, you should not confuse this for people not taking your work seriously because it is not up to the same standard as that of people with degrees.

There are certain conventions, knowledge of the language used, and of results in the field that you should be comfortable with/should be apparent in your work. These will make it a lot easier for others to understand it (and thus make them more likely to consider it).


great, because I've three papers in proceedings currently .. one about a proposed model based on markov chains in statistics, one about proposing a graph
model for twitter, and proposing an algorithm for users connectivity, and one last paper on combinatorics .. I've worked in a group of theory scientists
back in college, they told me that what matters is the research you write, not who you are

My favorite scientist is Godel, I'm reading a book about his life .. I'm working on a huge research in my fav field, mathematical logic
.. wish me luck

Edited by khaled, 26 December 2011 - 07:43 PM.

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#38 Louis Storn

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Posted 27 December 2011 - 08:31 AM

I'm now Internet-famous! I was recently approached for an interview by a blogger publishing interviews of science and technology related people, and it's now published:

[url="[url]http://thefastperfectionist.blogspot.com/2011/11/interview-with-admin-of-science-forums.html"]http://thefastperfec...nce-forums.html[/url][/url]

On that note, I'll open this thread up for questions. Want to know about SFN's history or how it's run? Fire away.


Congratulations.I have got the queries about physics would I be able to ask
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#39 D H

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 07:47 AM

My title is "learning assistant." There are several of us, along with two graduate TAs, assigned to work with a full professor in the course. The professor is responsible for the actual teaching, while we do homework help sessions, help out in class, guide students through their projects, and so on.

Sounds very similar to one of my college jobs. Amongst others, I was an undergraduate TA for the intro computer science class. Nothing hammers home the basics like helping to teach it, over and over.

My question to you: Has this experience made you get your introductory physics down solid?
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#40 Cap'n Refsmmat

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 02:44 PM

Sounds very similar to one of my college jobs. Amongst others, I was an undergraduate TA for the intro computer science class. Nothing hammers home the basics like helping to teach it, over and over.

My question to you: Has this experience made you get your introductory physics down solid?

Among other experiences, yes. The physics course I helped with was "modern physics," and covered the very basics of quantum mechanics and special relativity. A careful mental model is crucial in both -- you can memorize as many equations as you want, but you'll be lost if you don't understand what's happening. The professor when I took the course preferred to lecture by gesturing vaguely at PowerPoint slides, so being a learning assistant gave me the opportunity to solidify my understanding.
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