UK ‘Great Teacher’ rediscovers wonder of physics through teaching

LEXINGTON, Ky. (UK Public Releations)Six of the University of Kentucky’s passionate and accomplished educators were surprised earlier this spring by student nominators and the UK Alumni Association as 2021 Great Teacher Award recipients.

Chris Crawford, professor of physics and astronomy in the UK College of Arts and Sciences, is one of this year’s Great Teacher Award recipients.

“All my effort and energy at UK is directed towards the student research and teaching, and so to see recognition from the people that I’m working hardest for, and care the most about, it adds great fulfillment to my job,” Crawford said.

Crawford is a leading researcher of fundamental symmetries in nuclear physics, which is something he integrates into his teaching.

“There’s a great synergism between research and teaching. I feel like the research I do adds an extra dimension to my courses in terms of real-life examples and relevant assignments,” he said. “At the same time, teaching is when I get my best new ideas for research. I also value my students taking part in my research.”

Crawford says the raw energy and optimistic outlook his students bring to the classroom inspires him in his own research.

“Often I have no idea how to attack a problem, but I just have to remember to do it like my students do, and we’ll be just fine.”

Part of the joy in teaching for Crawford is watching his students understand elements of physics for the first time.

“It reminds me how amazing it is that our predecessors could have figured all this out. And so it’s fun to see this physics being rediscovered every year.”

Learn more about why this UK Alumni Association 2021 “Great Teacher” loves connecting with students to help them achieve what’s wildly possible both in their future careers and in life in the video above.

Crawford is just one of the 2021 UK Alumni Association Great Teacher award winners. This summer, UKNow has highlighted each of these Great Teachers. Watch their stories here.

Initiated in 1961, UK’s Great Teacher Award is the longest-running UK award recognizing teaching. In order to receive the award, educators must first be nominated by a student. The UK Alumni Association Great Teacher Award Committee, in cooperation with the student organization Omicron Delta Kappa, then makes the final selection. Recipients receive an engraved plaque and stipend.

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