Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Physics course for non-science majors

Richard KouzesPhysics 408 goes far beyond the physical to explore society, energy, communications, war, and art.

Topics range from atoms to artwork, from Newton’s laws to nuclear power, said Professor Richard Kouzes. “Each week I pose a set of discussion questions, but I say you can talk about anything else,” he said. “A number of students did their own research – searching out information on recycling fluorescent lights, for example.”

When those discussions become digressions, Kouzes intervenes just enough to make sure students have the facts straight. “I’d like to argue with them sometimes, but my role isn’t to get into opinions.”

But students say that while Kouzes doesn’t pontificate, he often instigates.

More...“Kouzes brings up these really controversial topics,” said Ami Brodak. “Evolution, population control, how the U.S. uses energy: all of these have incited strong opinions, at least for me.”

Kouzes may be a provocateur, Brodak said, but he’s a respectful one. “He never clobbered us for having a differing viewpoint from what he’s teaching,” she said. “That stimulated a free flow of ideas. I feel like I’ve learned from other viewpoints, and also been able to shed some light on topics.”

The course, formerly Physics 380, has no science prerequisites, which makes it well suited for non-science majors who need science credits, said Global Campus Academic Consultant Joy Thompson. “For students under the old GER requirements, it fulfills the Physical Science or [P] requirement,” she said. “For those under UCORE, it fulfills a capstone requirement [CAPS].”

“It’s been incredibly enlightening, especially for someone who was very intimidated by the sciences,” said Brodak, a history major.

By the end of the course, Brodak was no longer intimidated by sciences – or by the professor.

“I often disagreed with his contentions,” she said, “yet I totally loved the class. I learned more than I think I ever have in any other class on such a broad range of topics.”

Kouzes earned his master’s and doctorate in physics from Princeton University. He is a laboratory fellow at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington, and works in the areas of neutrino science, homeland security, radioactive material interdiction, non-proliferation, and computational applications. He lives in Richland and teaches at the Tri-Cities campus.

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