Faculty Faces: Dr. Ann Wright

DR. ANN WRIGHT, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF PHYSICS:

I teach in the Physics Department a Hendrix College and I teach anything in the Physics Department, anything from general physics, astronomy, quantum mechanics. Right now I'm teaching classical mechanics, but I'll teach pretty much anything.

I thought that I enjoyed science, so I went to MIT thinking I would become an engineer. I enjoyed my physics class very much, so I stuck with physics. I did some research at MIT in the nuclear particle physics area. My advisor had a collaborator at Rensselaer, and that's how I chose Rensselaer to go to graduate school. That led me to a postdoc at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and that was in the field of hybrid rockets.

The professors at MIT would not have known my name, would never have been able to pick me out of a crowd. We weren't asking questions during the lecture. Here at Hendrix I know my students. My students know me. We interact inside and outside the classroom, and that makes a very large difference in your ability to learn well. So, I think my students here are getting just as good a technical education as they would at MIT. It's just presented in a different way.

One of the most popular courses at Hendrix is astronomy. I've been teaching astronomy since I came here in 1998, and I just love the course. It's different every time I teach it. It's different because, practically every day, there's a new finding and something new to talk about in astronomy.

One of the things we did several years ago was to develop a robotics course. We use Lego Mindstorms – the kits. We have the students build several different robots, program them in in different ways, and at the end at the course they are allowed to design and build anything they want in a design project.

Some physics graduates have gone on to programs where they take their physics background and they apply their problem-solving and analytical skills to other areas such as finance, business. Several of our graduates go on to engineering school, graduate programs, or even into a corporation, into businesses. We even have one student who has gone on to become and a leader in the world organic farming, right here in car in Conway. So, a physics degree can take you many places.