Passion for science, love of students make Brosing a top teacherJenni Luckett | Editor
Juliet Brosing’s rural neighborhood is pretty quiet.
Brosing and her husband, Keith, live on a sloping 2-acre plot at the end of a long gravel road in Cherry Grove, Ore., some 20 minutes from Pacific University’s Forest Grove campus, where she is a physics professor.
Nasturtiums bloom on the deck, while an old broken wheelbarrow serves as a planter for lettuce. There’s a lush vegetable garden fenced off from marauding deer, and the neighbor’s goats and llamas peek in from down the hill.
The abnormally hot September afternoon would be idyllic—if not for the periodic gunshots and raucous laughter.
Don’t worry, though: It’s all in the name of science.
Professor of the Year
Brosing is the senior member of the physics faculty at Pacific University. For years, she has hosted students from this upper-level classical mechanics course at her home for an afternoon experiment with a potato gun.
“Say hello to my little friend,” jokes a young man, crossing his Al Pacino accent with a little Arnold Schwarzenegger, as he hoists the black PVC-pipe gun in front of his chest.
The experiment involves using filling a chamber in the pipe-gun with propane, then turning a switch to strike a spark inside. The resulting contained explosion forces the potato out of the gun with remarkable velocity. Students are measuring the velocity and distance of the potato’s flight in a study of projectile motion.
It’s this kind of creativity in the curriculum, paired with her mentorship of students and fellow faculty members and her advocacy for young women in science, that recently led Brosing to be named 2012 Oregon Professor of the Year.
Recognized Nov. 15 in Washington, D.C., by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support Education (CASE), Brosing is one of only 30 professors to earn a statewide award this year. She’s also the first Pacific University faculty member to ever earn the distinction.
Long road to teaching
Brosing says she never planned to become a teacher. For years, in fact, she was adamantly against it.
A California native, she grew up in a tiny rural community, learning to sew (one of her passions) in 4H and spending early mornings doing extra math lessons before school. After graduating high school in a class of 25, pulled together from two neighboring towns, she attended Humboldt State University as an undergraduate, intending to major in biology.
“I had a horrible biology teacher,” she says. But, she’d had a great high school physics teacher, so she switched.
She was a self-proclaimed “flower child,” know for going barefoot throughout her time at Humboldt and later while earning her master’s degree at Florida State University. She started wearing shoes during her doctorate years in the colder climes of British Columbia and later during her post-doctorate studies in New York. (These days, she’s almost always shod.)
All along, she was immersed in the idea of doing, not teaching, science. Plus, she says, there was always an underlying attitude that teaching was the “appropriate” track for women in her field, and she naturally rebelled.
“Since I was one of the few women in the profession and felt I needed to prove myself as a scientist, research won hands down,” she says.