Laurence Lurio, Ph.D., knows physics can be hard to grasp for many, so you’ll often see him doing hands-on experiments.
During one class, he tried to take a difficult example from the textbook, and do a demonstration for students to visualize.
He got out a Geiger counter and some potassium chloride salt to measure the fraction of radioactive potassium.
But when he set up the demo in advance, he realized there was a mistake in expected number of Geiger counter clicks. It was actually 10 too small — a mistake you would only find from doing the actual experiment.
So, he corrected the information, demonstrated the idea for students and now also has an acknowledgement in a bestselling textbook, which has been updated with the correct information.
That in-class experiment is just one of the ways the Physics professor and department chair goes out of his way to achieve understanding and meaningful learning no matter what level of Physics someone is at.
His efforts to help students earned him an NIU Presidential Teaching Professorship for 2019.
Lurio says he is honored.
“I want every student who comes into my class fall in love with physics,” he said. “Winning the presidential teaching professorship is, maybe, an indication that I haven’t completely failed in this crazy task.”
Former student Evan Reeves, who earned a master in Physics under Lurio and now teaches, said it is a well-deserved honor.
“He has an uncanny skill for taking complex topics and explaining them in simple, down-to-earth terms without losing any of the technical rigor,” Reeves said. “I still have trouble at times finding a way to connect with my students. When I am at a loss, I think back to the excitement I felt in one of Dr. Lurio’s class for inspiration.”