Alan Scott
Alan Scott at the New River Gorge Bridge
in Fayetteville, W.Va.

What's new in your field? 

The latest big news in particle physics is the experimental observation of the Higg’s Boson using the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. This is the so-called “God particle” as characterized by physicist and Nobel Prize winner Leon Lederman. The search for exoplanets in astrophysics continues to be a hot topic. More than 1,700 such planets have been found so far. These are planets outside our solar system. The search for high-energy neutrinos from outer space is exciting. A couple of them have been observed and were playfully named Bert and Ernie after “Sesame Street” characters. Science and physics education continue to integrate elements of the new science education standards called the Common Core. Flipped classrooms and assessment techniques are being carefully examined.

Why do you love teaching, especially at UW-Stout? 

I have a strong affinity for UW-Stout and its polytechnic mission. The students are highly focused on obtaining skills useful for the workforce. The faculty and administration strive to create an academic environment for excellence with a strong tilt toward practical knowledge. I teach physics to many of the engineering and applied science majors. These students must have a solid foundation in physics to fully prepare for these careers. Students need to be functionally proficient in concepts that utilize forces, such as accelerations, rotations, pressures, electricity and optics.

What’s your favorite teaching memory, moment or student? 

It is hard to pin it down to just one moment, memory or student. Recently, students have responded with spontaneous applause with my role acting as a pirate. I dress like a pirate for the “International Talk Like a Pirate Day.” I do exceptionally well at this having been part of a singing pirate cast in the local theater production of “Pirates of Penzance.” I sing a song about drinking pirate sherry and incorporate some poor, unsuspecting student in with the lyrics and motions. Then we proceed to calculate the bending stress in a wooden plank loaded at the end with a scallywag.

What’s interesting about you that your students might not know? 

I have keys to a spaceship/time machine. It is often parked in the physics department office area. And I did not invent a muscular neurotoxin that thousands of people inject into themselves every year in the United States. It was another Dr. Alan Scott who invented Botox.

If you could interview anyone, who would it be and why? 

My short list contains all the well-known physicists. If it was limited to just one, it would be Dr. Carl Sagan. He made significant contributions to fundamental science, though never won the Nobel Prize in physics. His main contributions were in popularizing science — writing books, hosting the “Cosmos” TV series, being interviewed on television shows, being an advocate for space exploration and sharing his philosophy of science, the cosmos and society. He was also a great humanitarian and was awarded the Public Welfare Medal by the National Academy of Sciences for his work in applying science to help solve societal issues. I sense that he was a guy who would be very approachable and well-spoken.

Five Questions

About Alan

» Faculty Profile

Title: Professor of physics, physics department chair

Teaching focus, expertise: Physics and science education, including engineering physics, general physics, astronomy and geology.

Research interests: Experimental nuclear physics

Background: A native of Tontogany, Ohio, he earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Bowling Green and a Ph.D. in physics from Kent State, both in Ohio. As a graduate student, he worked with a particle accelerator at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif. He spent one year as a visiting professor at the College of Wooster, Ohio, before coming to UW-Stout.

Family, hobbies: His wife, Monica, works at the Menomonie Public Library. They have two children, Rachel, a freshman at UW-Eau Claire; and Austin, a junior at Menomonie High School. Alan enjoys woodworking, bicycling, hiking, reading the New York Times and volunteering in the community. He also has acted in plays at the Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts in Menomonie.

 

March 2015